“Like... dead dead?”
Her hands are trembling slightly - as is her voice, although I can tell she’s making an effort to keep her tone as casual as possible. Still, she can’t hide her emotion completely. Not from me, anyway. Not when we’ve known each other since first year, when we were young and eager and... well, innocent, I guess.
A lot has changed since then.
”Proper dead?” she presses. “Not, like, living dead? ‘Cause I thought...”
”Jan- “ I cut in.
“...he’d be, like, a ghost or something, or...”
”...he’s out there hiding somewhere, maybe...”
”Jan. Look. He’s-“
”...or this is - this isn’t a joke, right? Some sick joke? ‘Cos it’s not funny.”
Thank God the Hufflepuff common room’s empty, because her voice is getting higher with every word, and she’s given up all attempts at whispering. I try not to look at her face - the desperate hope in her eyes is unsettling me - so instead I look at her hands. Clenching. Unclenching. Sharp neon-pink nails scraping against the yellow cushions. Scritch. Scratch. I don’t know what’s worse, the scratching or the look in her eyes.
I assure her it isn’t a joke. That doesn’t give her any comfort.
”He’s not just... missing? Or...”
”Not missing. Dead.”
”Dead,” I repeat firmly.
Finally it sinks in. Her hands fall limp against the cushions. When I look up, the hopeful, pleading expression has completely gone from her face. I once saw a picture in the Daily Prophet of a witch in Azkaban, a woman convicted of murder, who had been given to the Dementors just a few hours before the photo was taken. Jan’s face has the same sort of look to it - as if the light of her soul has just been snuffed out. “Oh,” she says.
No expression in her voice. Just, “oh”.
Then, “God,” she says. “Oh, God.”
”Exactly,” I say grimly.
She’s silent again for a few moments. It’s that time in the evening when the fading sunlight shines warmly through the little round windows. One of the house-elves must have lit the fire before we snuck in here earlier, and it’s still burning away comfortably... so why does the room feel so cold?
Eventually she looks up at me and asks the question which - well, to be honest, it’s the only question I’ve been asking myself, too.
”Mark...what are we going to do?”