- "Can you keep a secret, Tom? Will you promise you won't tell Mr Burke I've got it? He'd never let me rest if he knew I'd shown it to you, and I'm not selling, not to Burke, not to anyone!"
- —Hepzibah Smith to Tom Riddle on Helga Hufflepuff's Cup[src]
Madam Hepzibah Smith (died c. 1955-1961) was a witch who claimed to be descended from Helga Hufflepuff. Being very rich, Hepzibah was an avid collector of magical antiquities, including objects that belonged to the founders of Hogwarts; her two most prized possessions were Helga Hufflepuff's cup and Salazar Slytherin's locket.
Not much is known of Hepzibah's early life, but as an older woman, she befriended the young wizard Tom Riddle during one of her visits to Borgin and Burkes. After Hepzibah revealed her two greatest treasures during one of Tom's visits to her home, Tom killed her and used her death to make the cup into a Horcrux. Because her house-elf Hokey, was very old and forgetful, no one doubted that she did the crime. She claimed to have accidentally put poison into her mistress' evening cocoa when in reality Riddle had planted a false memory in her mind.
Before Hokey died, Albus Dumbledore realised the mistake and obtained a true memory from her, but it only showed that Riddle had enquired about Hepzibah's artefacts and was not enough to prove Hokey was innocent before she died.
Hepzibah claimed to be descended from Helga Hufflepuff, one of the founders of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. She was a very old and wealthy witch who collected magical antiques. Two of her most prized possessions were a cup that belonged to her (claimed) ancestor, Helga Hufflepuff, and a locket that belonged to Salazar Slytherin, the latter of which she bought at great expense from Caractacus Burke.
Meeting Tom Riddle and death
While working at Borgin and Burkes, Tom Riddle befriended Hepzibah, who doted upon him to the extent of having an apparent attraction to him. While Riddle was visiting her on behalf of Mr Burke, ostensibly to negotiate the sale of a suit of goblin-made armour in her possession, she imprudently showed him two of her greatest treasures: Hufflepuff's cup and Slytherin's locket.
When she took the locket from Tom's hands, she caught a glimpse of the greedy red gleam in his eyes, which caused her "foolish smile" and obsessive admiration of the boy to momentarily falter.
Two days later, she was found dead; a lethal and little known poison was found mixed with her cocoa. Riddle was never suspected; Hepzibah's house-elf, Hokey, confessed to having mistaken the poison for sugar, for which her fate is not revealed.
Albus Dumbledore tracked Hokey down several years later and extracted a memory from her that cast doubt on her guilt. The cup and the locket had since gone missing; they subsequently became two of Lord Voldemort's Horcruxes, with Albus Dumbledore believing that Hepzibah's death was the murder that transformed the cup. This would be another step in his rise to power, and pursuit of immortality.
Hepzibah's murder was ultimately avenged when Riddle was killed in the Battle of Hogwarts.
- "...An immensely fat old lady wearing an elaborate ginger wig and a brilliant pink set of robes that flowed all around her, giving her the look of a melting iced cake. She was looking into a small jewelled mirror and dabbing rouge onto her already scarlet cheeks with a large powder puff, while the tiniest and oldest house-elf Harry had ever seen laced her fleshy feet into tight satin slippers"
- —Description of Hepzibah Smith[src]
In 1996, Dumbledore and Harry viewed Hokey's memory of Hepzibah's meeting with Tom Riddle where she revealed the cup and locket. In the Pensieve, Harry's assessment of Hepzibah was that she was an enormously fat, wealthy woman with an ornate ginger wig. She was wearing a set of lustrous, flashy pink robes that flowed all around her and made her look like a melting iced cake. She wore satin slippers that were too small for her pudgy feet, laced by her house-elf Hokey. Hepzibah appeared to be quite vain and excessive, as when Harry saw her she was looking at herself in a jewel-encrusted mirror while putting rouge on her cheeks. She was very interested in valuable objects and antiques, as demonstrated by her possession of Slytherin's locket and Hufflepuff's cup. Hepzibah Smith appeared to go to great lengths to appear attractive and much younger than she really was, and to try and impress Riddle during his visits to her home.
Hearing Hokey praise her mistress's appearance as "lovely", Harry Potter concluded that Hokey's contract said that she must "lie through her teeth" when asked this question, as she was a long way from lovely in Harry's opinion. She was described to have a "foolish smile" in Tom Riddle's presence, which faltered when she caught a momentary glimpse of his true nature.
Personality and traits
Hepzibah was a hoarder of antiques, as her house was so full of objects that Harry wondered how she could move around. She was also very proud, to the point that she did not tell anybody where she had hidden her antiques. However, she was at times unintelligent, as she foolishly showed off her two most valuable treasures to Tom Riddle, not realising that he was someone who would harm her to take them for himself. Highly infatuated with Riddle's façade of a polite and handsome young man, Hepzibah was completely oblivious to the dark, greedy look on his face, until the last moment she saw him, at which even she could not ignore the red gleam in his eyes. She was also very conceited and believed that she was a beautiful woman, something Harry Potter found that she was far from. Due to her naïveté and conceit, Dumbledore described her as a "poor and besotted old woman".
Despite her vanity and conceit, Hepzibah was not a cruel or unkind woman and though she could be sharp with her house-elf servant, she did not appear to mistreat her in any way. This was somewhat unusual as house-elves were generally treated with disdain or indifference if not outright cruelty by most wizards.
Hepzibah first met Tom Riddle when the latter worked at Borgin and Burkes. Tom was a very handsome and clever young man. At first, he appeared to be friendly with Hepzibah, flattering her and making her feel pretty. However, it was obvious that he was kind to her only because he understood that she possessed Salazar Slytherin's Locket and Helga Hufflepuff's Cup, which he aimed to obtain in order to make them into horcruxes. When Hepzibah showed those treasures to Tom, she saw a red and greedy gleam in his eyes; she initially thought it was just the light and felt genuinely afraid of him when she glimpsed his true nature, but by that point her fate had already been sealed. Two days later, Tom Riddle killed Hepzibah in order to take the two heirlooms by spiking her cocoa with a little-known poison. He had no remorse for killing her, and even used her death to transform the cup into his Horcrux.
Hokey was Hepzibah's house-elf, who was tiny and very elderly. Hokey is likely to have performed most tasks typical of a house-elf. Harry Potter observed that one of her duties was to flatter her mistress; he suggested that she must have been lying "through her teeth" when she called Hepzibah "lovely". Their relationship was one typical between a witch and her servant. After Hepzibah's death, Hokey claimed responsibility, and as she was "old and confused", the Ministry labelled Hepzibah's death an accident. It was through a memory of Hokey's that Harry Potter observed the events which took place between Hepzibah and Tom Riddle, secured by Dumbledore before Hokey passed away.
The name "Hepzibah" is a variant of Heftsi-Vah or Heftsi-Bah, a Hebrew female name meaning "my delight is in her". Heftsi-Vah was the wife of Hezekiah and the mother of Manasseh, kings of Judah, according to 2 Kings 21:1. This name may allude to the nature of Hepzibah Smith, regarding her interest in ancient valuable artefact collections. It can also allude to the will of Lord Voldemort in killing her to split his soul and steal Hufflepuff's cup and Slytherin's locket.
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (First appearance) (Appears in flashback(s))
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Mentioned only)
Notes and references
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 20 (Lord Voldemort's Request) - Hepzibah's death took place ten years before Tom Riddle visited Albus Dumbledore to enquire about teaching at Hogwarts. Dumbledore became Headteacher sometime after March 1965 but no later than March 1971. Therefore, Hepzibah died between 1955 and 1961.
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 20 (Lord Voldemort's Request)
- "Meaning, Origin, and History of the Name Hepzibah." Behindthename.com, 2011.
- "2 Kings 21:1." Bible.cc, 2011.