The pressure in her head was building, and she knew that she wouldn’t be able to carry on much longer.
Decide, Hermione. Tell him what he’s missed out on all these years, or get out of here before you decorate the floor with your lunch. The anger was building again, colliding with the ever-present grief and helplessness. Why should he be innocent of the knowledge of what they had lost and what was yet to come?
“You recognise the signs.” It was a statement rather than a question.
“I do,” he paused.
“Of course you do,” she snapped. “The poison that is eating me alive belonged to an old friend of yours.” Now that she had opened the door, it was all she could do to discipline her words to come out one at a time.
“An old friend of mine?” He sounded startled.
“Your precious Dark Lord and his Horcruxes, Snape.” Her voice was rising rapidly, but she couldn’t bring herself to care. “Didn’t you wonder what we were doing all those months in hiding? Camping?” She shuddered. “We hunted them; we had to destroy them before Harry could finish him off,” she continued. “But nobody warned us that they bit back.” Her voice was drenched with all the venom that she could not purge from her body.
“Horcruxes?” His voice was rough, the surprise on his face translated to sound.
“Yes, Horcruxes, Snape. Objects that housed fragmented parts of Lord Voldemort’s cursed soul. That diary that nearly killed Ginny, the ring that made Dumbledore’s arm black… Nagini, that horrible snake.” His gasp stopped her tirade briefly, but the look of shock and disgust re-fuelled her desperate anger.
“Didn’t you know that, Snape? Didn’t you know that pieces of your precious Master were lying in wait to destroy anybody they touched? Did you know that the headmaster—” she sneered, “pardon me, Headmaster Dumbledore—couldn’t be bothered to tell us what we were risking when we followed his directions and destroyed them?”
“My Master? Poisoned Horcruxes? What are you on about, Granger? What happened to those who came into contact with those… those Horcruxes?” Snape sounded unnerved, but it was the mounting alarm in his voice that grabbed her attention.
The panic in his tone, even camouflaged by irritation, sent her heart racing, as if it had solved a puzzle that her intellect had not yet unravelled. Somewhere in the back of her mind, understanding belatedly dawned that Gryffindors might not have been the only casualties of the war on Voldemort’s Horcruxes. Her heart sped up even more at the thought, and she had to force herself to slow down long enough to look more closely at the man who, until moments before, she had believed dead.
He was thin, the severe cut of his cloak emphasizing the angles of his lean frame, black cloth framing the strained expression on his face. His eyes were as dark and penetrating as she remembered from her school days, though at the time she hadn’t paid attention to the sensuous sweep of his eyelashes or the proud line of his jaw. A swathe of sooty hair shielded his neck from view, but she knew that there had to be some sort of mark on that pale skin from Nagini’s vicious bite.
It hit her with the strength of a tidal wave.
Nagini. Oh, Circe… Nagini bit him, too.