In this lesson we’ll look at what’s possibly the creepiest sequence in the whole Harry Potter series—when Harry and Hermione enter Bathilda Bagshot’s house.

Bathilda was tottering around the place lighting candles, but it was still very dark, not to mention extremely dirty. Thick dust crunched beneath their feet and Harry's nose detected, underneath the dank and mildewed smell, something worse, like meat gone bad. He wondered when was the last time anyone had been inside Bathilda's house to check whether she was coping. She seemed to have forgotten that she could do magic too, for she lit the candles clumsily by hand, her trailing lace cuff in constant danger of catching fire.

'Let me do that,' offered Harry, and he took the matches from her. She stood watching him as he finished lighting the candle stubs that stood on saucers around the room, perched precariously on stacks of books and on side tables crammed with cracked and mouldy cups.

What’s fun about this scene is that Rowling starts to dump the subtlety of the previous scenes—where Godric’s Hollow is a sweet little village but also kind of creepy—and finally reveal the reason why the town seems slightly off.

In making this revelation she gets to finally wallow in descriptive choices about rot, dirt, filth, decay, stench and darkness. Sweet!

Gothic fiction is obsessed with death, and more broadly with the whole process of dying. The pathway to death is marked by failure and decay, and that’s what makes Bathilda’s house more than just an example of good horror writing, but specifically a good example of gothic.