In Harry Potter, Harry and Hermione fall into Voldemort’s trap with Nagini disguised as Bathilda Bagshot. But how does a snake impersonate a witch?
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In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Harry, Ron and Hermione are on a quest for Horcruxes, the seven objects magically altered by Voldemort to conserve parts of his soul. While visiting Godric’s Hollow to look for the Sword of Gryffindor to destroy the Horcruxes, Harry and Hermione meet Bathilda Bagshot only to discover she’s actually the snake Nagini waiting for them. But how was the snake able to impersonate Bathilda?
In the Harry Potter franchise, Bathilda Bagshot is a famous name in the Wizarding World. A well-respected witch, she’s the author of A History of Magic, one of Hermione’s favorite textbooks at school, and a former teacher. She is also Gellert Grindelwald’s great-aunt and holds a lot of information about her nephew’s past and his relationship with Dumbledore.
Bathilda Bagshot Lives and Dies in Godric’s Hollow
On a more personal note to Harry, Bathilda Bagshot became quite close with his parents during her later years, especially Lily Potter, Harry’s mother. Bagshot lived in a cottage at Godric’s Hollow, the same place where his parents had lived. In the search for Horcruxes, it becomes inevitable that he should look at Godric’s Hollow as a possible hiding place for one of them or the Sword of Gryffindor. Voldemort knows this, so he sets a trap.
When Harry and Hermione visit his parents’ grave and their destroyed home, they meet Bathilda Bagshot. She welcomes them into her cottage without muttering a word and points them inside. What they fail to see is that she is already dead, and she’s luring them in to kill them. Bathilda speaks to Harry alone in parseltongue, and although the audience can see the snake appearing from a disappearing body, it does not explain how Nagini could’ve held Bathilda’s corpse long enough, let alone fit inside it.
It could have been polyjuice potion, but such a potion only works between human to human transfiguration, as seen in the Chamber of Secrets when Hermione mistakenly slipped a hair in her potion that belonged to a cat. The more reliable yet gruesome explanation is that Voldemort killed Bathilda, reanimated her corpse through magic and then hid the snake inside. But the snake is quite big, so some other kind of magic would’ve had to be used for her to be hidden inside the body.
Bathilda Bagshot May Well Have Been an Inferius
Most likely, the corpse was reanimated as an inferius, a bewitched dead body, similar but intrinsically distinct to a zombie. Voldemort had raised an army of inferi with most of the muggles and wizards he’d killed when he was most powerful. Harry and Dumbledore meet an army of inferi when attempting to retrieve one of the Horcruxes in a crystal cave by the sea in The Half-Blood Prince. Despite not being mentioned in either the Deathly Hallows novel or film, Bathilda Bagshot’s body could’ve been reanimated with the same spell by Voldemort.
Still, that does not explain how a full-scale snake could be hidden inside the corpse. After it was reanimated, Voldemort could’ve then used a capacious extremis spell, the undetectable extension charm, which is used a couple of times throughout the Harry Potter films. Hermione uses it on her handbag to pack inside everything they are going to need on their journey to find the Horcruxes.
In the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 film, the Godric’s Hollow scene is quite confusing. Bathilda is quite old and has difficulty walking and opening the door with the key. Her body disappears and gives way to Nagini, while Hermione finds what seems to be the snake’s changed skin. Nagini’s impersonation of Bathilda is, nevertheless, an intended trap by Voldemort for Harry, which might have put his most important Horcrux in jeopardy.