Bathilda's secret

Harry gets more than he bargained for when he visits the magical historian at Godric's Hollow

Extract from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

By J.K. Rowling

'Lead the way,’ Harry told Bathilda.

She seemed to understand, because she shuffled round him towards the door. Harry glanced back at Hermione with a reassuring smile, but he was not sure she had seen it; she stood hugging herself in the midst of the candlelit squalor, looking towards the bookcase. As Harry walked out of the room, unseen by both Hermione and Bathilda, he slipped the silver-framed photograph of the unknown thief inside his jacket.

The stairs were steep and narrow: Harry was half tempted to place his hands on stout Bathilda’s backside to ensure that she did not topple over backwards on top of him, which seemed only too likely. Slowly, wheezing a little, she climbed to the upper landing, turned immediately right and led him into a low-ceilinged bedroom.

It was pitch black and smelled horrible: Harry had just made out a chamber pot protruding from under the bed before Bathilda closed the door and even that was swallowed by the darkness.

‘Lumos,’ said Harry, and his wand ignited. He gave a start: Bathilda had moved close to him in those few seconds of darkness, and he had not heard her approach.

‘You are Potter?' she whispered.

‘Yes, I am.’

She nodded slowly, solemnly. Harry felt the Horcrux beating fast, faster than his own heart: it was an unpleasant, agitating sensation.

‘Have you got anything for me?’ Harry asked, but she seemed distracted by his lit wand-tip.

‘Have you got anything for me?’ he repeated.

Then she closed her eyes and several things happened at once: Harry’s scar prickled painfully; the Horcrux twitched so that the front of his sweater actually moved; the dark, fetid room dissolved momentarily. He felt a leap of joy and spoke in a high, cold voice: hold him!

Harry swayed where he stood: the dark, foul-smelling room seemed to close around him again; he did not know what had just happened.

‘Have you got anything for me?’ he asked for a third time, much louder.

‘Over here,’ she whispered, pointing to the corner. Harry raised his wand and saw the outline of a cluttered dressing table beneath the curtained window.

This time she did not lead him. Harry edged between her and the unmade bed, his wand raised. He did not want to look away from her.

‘What is it?’ he asked as he reached the dressing table, which was heaped high with what looked and smelled like dirty laundry.

‘There,’ she said, pointing at the shapeless mass.

And in the instant that he looked away, his eyes raking the tangled mess for a sword hilt, a ruby, she moved weirdly: he saw it out of the corner of his eye; panic made him turn and horror paralysed him as he saw the old body collapsing and the great snake pouring from the place where her neck had been.

The snake struck as he raised his wand: the force of the bite to his forearm sent the wand spinning up towards the ceiling, its light swung dizzyingly around the room and was extinguished: then a powerful blow from the tail to his midriff knocked the breath out of him: he fell backwards on to the dressing table, into the mound of filthy clothing...

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

By J.K. Rowling