Bathilda was standing in the middle of the room watching Hermione light the fire for her.

“Miss Bagshot?” Harry repeated, and he advanced with the picture in his hands as the flames burst into life in the fireplace. Bathilda looked up at his voice, and the Horcrux beat faster upon his chest.

“Who is this person?” Harry asked her, pushing the picture forward.

She peered at it solemnly, then up at Harry.

“Do you know who this is?” he repeated in a much slower and louder voice than usual. “This man? Do you know him? What’s he called?”

Bathilda merely looked vague. Harry felt an awful frustration. How had Rita Skeeter unlocked Bathilda’s memories?

“Who is this man?” he repeated loudly.

“Harry, what are you doing?” asked Hermione.

“This picture. Hermione, it’s the thief, the thief who stole from Gregorovitch! Please!” he said to Bathilda. “Who is this?”

But she only stared at him.

“Why did you ask us to come with you, Mrs.—Miss—Bagshot?” asked Hermione, raising her own voice. “Was there something you wanted to tell us?”

Giving no sign that she had heard Hermione, Bathilda now shuffled a few steps closer to Harry. With a little jerk of her head she looked back into the hall.

“You want us to leave?” he asked.

She repeated the gesture, this time pointing firstly at him, then at herself, then at the ceiling.

“Oh, right… Hermione, I think she wants me to go upstairs with her.”

“All right,” said Hermione, “let’s go.”

But when Hermione moved, Bathilda shook her head with surprising vigor, once more pointing first at Harry, then to herself.

“She wants me to go with her, alone.”

“Why?” asked Hermione, and her voice rang out sharp and clear in the candlelit room, the old lady shook her head a little at the loud noise.

“Maybe Dumbledore told her to give the sword to me, and only to me?”

“Do you really think she knows who you are?”

“Yes,” said Harry, looking down into the milky eyes fixed upon his own. “I think she does.”

“Well, okay then, but be quick, Harry.”

“Lead the way,” Harry told Bathilda.



She seemed to understand, because she shuffled around him toward 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 toward 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 backward 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.”


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