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Break-in of Gringotts Wizarding Bank (1998)

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There was a break-in of Gringotts Wizarding Bank on 1 May, 1998, during the height of the Second Wizarding War. It was carried out by Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger in order to steal one of Lord Voldemort’s Horcruxes from the vault belonging to the Lestrange family. The trio were assisted by Griphook, a former employee of Gringotts, who agreed to help them in exchange for Godric Gryffindor's Sword, but double-crossed them.

The trio broke into the bank with Hermione disguised as Bellatrix Lestrange, Ron given a fake identity as a disguise, and Harry and Griphook under the Invisibility Cloak. They found their way into the vault and acquired Helga Hufflepuff's Cup, and in their attempt to escape ended up flying a blind dragon out of the bank in what would become a famous escape. This is, to date, the only known successful robbery of Gringotts. Quirinus Quirrell's attempt to steal the Philosopher's Stone in 1991 was unsuccessful only due to the fact that the stone had already been removed from its vault.


DH - Shell Cottage (film version) picture2

Shell Cottage, where the plan seeded.

Hermione Granger: "Are you saying there’s a Horcrux in the Lestranges vault?"
Harry Potter: "Yes, Bellatrix was terrified when she thought we’d been in there, she was beside herself. Why? What did she think we’d seen, what else did she think we might have taken? Something she was petrified You-Know-Who would find out about."
— Harry and Hermione discussing about the place of the Horcrux.[src]

After escaping Malfoy Manor in the spring of 1998, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger stayed at Shell Cottage for a period of time with Luna Lovegood, Dean Thomas, Mr. Ollivander, and Griphook. When Bellatrix Lestrange had interrogated and tortured Hermione with the Cruciatus Curse at Malfoy Manor, she unknowingly revealed that there was something in her vault at Gringotts that was very valuable to Lord Voldemort. Harry and his friends deduced that this was another of Voldemort’s Horcruxes, and thus needed a way to get into the vault in order to steal it.[2][3] A plan was then conceived to break into Gringotts, during their stay at Shell Cottage.


Bargain with Griphook

Goblin-Griphook, holding the Godric Gryffindor's sword DH

Griphook with his bargained sword of Gryffindor.

Griphook: "I have reached my decision, Harry Potter. Though the goblins of Gringotts will consider it base treachery, I have decided to help you…in return for payment… I want the sword. The sword of Godric Gryffindor."
Harry: "You can’t have that. I'm sorry... The sword’s ours... We're Gryffindors, and it was Godric Gryffindor’s-"
Griphook: "Wizarding arrogance again! That sword was Ragnuk the First’s, taken from him by Godric Gryffindor! It is a masterpiece of goblin work! It belongs with the goblins. The sword is the price of my hire, take it or leave it!"
Griphook and Harry bargain.[src]

To this end, they bargained with Griphook, a former employee of Gringotts, to help them break in. He agreed to help them – in exchange for Godric Gryffindor's Sword. As Bill Weasley explained to Harry, goblins have different conceptions of ownership than wizards, considering the maker and not the buyer to be the true owner. Griphook also claimed that Godric Gryffindor had stolen the sword from goblin Ragnuk the First.[4]


The Sword of Godric Gryffindor.

Harry reluctantly agreed to Griphook’s ultimatum, though he planned to only hand it over after he, Ron and Hermione had used it to destroy Horcruxes. Griphook was also suspicious of any wizard’s ability to keep his word, given the poor history between his people and wizards.[4]


Hermione then used a strand of Bellatrix's hair, which had fallen onto her jumper back when she was being held at Malfoy Manor, to disguise herself as Bellatrix with the Polyjuice Potion. She also transfigured various aspects of Ron's appearance to disguise him as “Dragomir Despard”, a foreign wizard. Harry and Griphook hid under his Invisibility cloak and the group headed to the bank.[5]


Diagon Alley

Travers: "Well, I confess I am surprised to see you out and about, Bellatrix... I heard that the inhabitants of Malfoy Manor were confined to the house, after the…ah…escape."
Hermione (as Bellatrix): "The Dark Lord forgives those who have served him most faithfully in the past. Perhaps your credit is not as good with him as mine is, Travers."
— Hermione trying to imitate Bellatrix Lestrange.[src]

When the trio and Griphook entered Diagon Alley, they were taken aback by the changes: Dark Arts shops lined the street while many familiar stores had been boarded over, and Harry's "Undesirable Number One" wanted posters were everywhere. Their plan proceeded reasonably well, and Hermione made a convincing Bellatrix Lestrange, though Harry warned her against being too polite to subordinates. She was visibily startled when a beggar approached her, asking her for his children - one of the wizards whose wands had been confiscated and thus are forced to beg in the street. When he lunged for her throat, Ron stunned him.[5]

"Gold, filthy gold! We cannot live without it, yet I confess I deplore the necessity of consorting with our long-fingered friends."
Travers on the goblins of Gringotts.[src]
Travers, a Death Eater, approached the group and addressed "Bellatrix". He was surprised Bellatrix was outside Malfoy Manor after hearing everyone there had been confined to the house and that Bellatrix's wand was lost. Hermione, in a “magnificent imitation of Bellatrix's most contemptuous manner”, dismissed his comment by responding that Dark Lord showed mercy to those who have served him well in the past.[5] Travers's suspicions seemed eased, and he accompanied them into the bank.

Getting In

Ron and Hermione entering Gringots for the Break In

Ron and Hermione (disguised as Dragomir Despard and Bellatrix Lestrange) break into Gringotts Bank.

Travers: "Ah, Probity Probes, so crude -- but effective!"
Harry: "Confundo! Confundo!"
Marius: "One moment, madam."
Hermione: "But you've just done that!"
Guard: "Yeah, you've just checked them, Marius."
— The trio, Griphook, and Travers at the doors.[src]
At the doors of the bank, two human guards had Probity Probes--devices that detected concealment charms. Harry quickly used a Confundus Charm on the guards and Hermione passed by them unchecked, though their apparent confusion causes Travers a moment's pause. When they reached the counters, Travers presented his key to the Goblin employees, who requested "Bellatrix"'s identification.
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Harry with Griphook on his back under the Invisibility Cloak.

Goblin: "Madam Lestrange! Dear me! How -- how may I help you today?"
Hermione: "I wish to enter my vault."
Goblin: "You have...identification?"
Hermione: "Identification? I -- I have never been asked for identification before!"
Goblin: "Your wand will do, madam."
— The Goblins request Bellatrix's wand, knowing that it had been stolen.[src]

When Hermione hesitated, one nervously said that her wand was sufficient proof, though she claimed it was new. Harry suspected that the Goblins knew that Bellatrix's wand had been stolen and were thus looking for an impostor. Griphook suggested using the Imperius Curse on the Goblin, Bogrod, who then accepted the wand as being correct. Harry also put Travers under the curse when he became suspicious, knowing there were no wandmakers available.


The trio, Griphook, and Bogrod on a cart going deeper underground as they break into the bank.

Bogrod requested the Clankers, and then led Hermione and Ron, with Harry, Griphook, and Travers into a passageway. The door slammed shut, and Harry sent Travers away to hide. Bogrod, still under the Imperius curse, summoned a cart that descended deep within Gringotts. After many twists and turns, the cart passed through a security waterfall—known as the Thief's Downfall--that washed away all illusion charms and magical concealment. When the cart overturned and dumped them out, Hermione and Ron had been restored to their true appearances. Griphook believed the other Goblins knew they were impostors, but Harry decided to continue and uses the Imperius Curse on Bogrod once more.[5]

Within the Vault


The interior of the Lestrange Vault

Griphook: "Everything you touch will burn and multiply, but the copies are worthless – and if you continue to handle the treasure, you will eventually be crushed to death by the weight of expanding gold!"
Harry: "Okay, don’t touch anything!... Just look around! Remember, the cup’s small and gold, it’s got a badger engraved on it, two handles…"
— Searching for the Horcrux.[src]
Harry, Ron, Hermione, Griphook, and Bogrod hurried to the door, whereupon they see an aged, half-blind dragon guarding the vault, which Griphook subdues by using the Clankers; Harry guessed that the cowering Dragon associated the noise of Clankers with pain. Hearing pursuit approaching, Harry forced Bogrod to open the vault, which was filled with precious objects. The vault closed shut behind them, and Griphook said Bogrod could release them, but they must search quickly. Hermione then screamed in pain; the vault's protective charm causes the contents to start multiplying exponentially and become searing hot every time something was touched.[5] As they searched, the amount of treasure started to grow and the heat began to rise with them stuck inside it, burning their skin every time a piece of gold touched them.
DH2 Harry Potter in Bellatrix Lestrange's vault

Harry Potter reaching out for Helga Hufflepuff's Cup using Godric Gryffindor's sword inside the Lestrange vault.

Harry spotted Helga Hufflepuff’s Cup, but it was out of reach. Hermione levitated Harry close to it with the Levicorpus spell, and he snagged the Cup with Gryffindor's Sword, while Hermione, Ron, Griphook, and Bogrod struggled to stay above the hot multiplying objects below. As Harry sets himself down, he dropped the Sword and the Cup.


Harry amid the tide of burning treasure.

Griphook grabbed Gryffindor's Sword, and flipped Hufflepuff's Cup up into the air. Harry caught it, ignoring as it seared his flesh and thousands of replica cups burst forth from it. Borne by a treasure avalanche spilling from the now-opened vault, Griphook betrayed the trio by running off clutching Gryffindor's Sword and yelling that thieves were in the vault as a crowd of armed goblins and wizards approached them.



The dragon which protects the vault.

Harry, Ron and Hermione all hurled Stunning Spells and curses at the oncoming goblins throng to hold them off. Harry then used a Revulsion Jinx to release the half-blind dragon from its chains and the trio jump onto its back. The dragon began to breathe fire at the goblins and to fly through the corridor that was almost too narrow for it, while the goblins threw daggers at them.

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The Trio escaping on the dragon.

Hermione used Defodio to enlarge the passageway for the dragon, and Harry and Ron copied her. Their combined efforts and the dragon’s violent thrashing allow them to break into the main hallway. As customers and employees fled, the dragon burst out of the doors into Diagon Alley, and launched itself into the sky.[5]


Hermione: "What’ll happen to it, do you think? Will it be alright?"
Ron: "You sound like Hagrid. It’s a dragon, Hermione, it can look after itself. It’s us we need to worry about… I don’t know how to break this to you, but I think they might have noticed we broke into Gringotts."
— after the trio jumps off the dragon[src]
The Killing Curse

Voldemort reacts to the theft of the cup, one of his Horcruxes.

Harry, Ron and Hermione eventually leapt off the dragon into a lake.[6] Their break-in and escape from Gringotts would become infamous, as students from Hogwarts heard the news despite the school being under the Death Eaters' tyrannical control.[7] Although they had acquired an additional Horcrux, their break-in also exposed their plan to Lord Voldemort enraged when he discovered that a Horcrux had been stolen. Harry, through his mind connection to the Dark Lord, witnessed his fury that his secret had been discovered and his determination to check if all the other Horcruxes were safe. Tuned into Voldemort's thoughts, Harry also learned that one Horcrux was hidden at Hogwarts, as he had long suspected.

"The boy has discovered our secret, Nagini. It makes us vulnerable. We must deploy all our forces now to find him. And you, my friend, must stay close."
—Lord Voldemort to Nagini in Malfoy Manor.[src]
The trio had also lost Godric Gryffindor's Sword to Griphook, which meant they would have to find other means of destroying the Horcruxes. As they already knew, Basilisk venom destroys Horcruxes, and so with the Sword of Gryffindor no longer available, Ron and Hermione would have to go to the only place where that venom exists: the Chamber of Secrets beneath Hogwarts Castle. Thus, Harry would be forced to visit the school for both the reason of attaining Basilisk venom and finding the next Horcrux. At the moment, however, Harry was more interested in collecting Horcruxes than destroying them; we will see that he does not even consider how to destroy the Cup Horcrux, being more concerned with preventing Voldemort from reaching the one at Hogwarts. Those, the trio planned to return to Hogwarts, setting the stage for the final battle of the Second Wizarding War.[6]

The high-security vaults at Gringotts were left without one of their dragon guardians and, by July of that year, the bank had added sphinxes to their security mechanisms, much to the disdain of wizards who, like Mallory Twiddle, spent hours trying to solve the sphinxes' riddles and were, eventually, chased out of the bank.[8][9]


Notes and references

  1. The break-in occurred the day before the Battle of Hogwarts, which occurred on 2 May, 1998.
  2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor)
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Chapter 24 (The Wandmaker)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Chapter 25 (Shell Cottage)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Chapter 26 (Gringotts)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Chapter 27 (The Final Hiding Place)
  7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Chapter 29 (The Lost Diadem)
  8. "Wizards, Witches and Beings: T" on the Harry Potter Lexicon
  9. "Daily Prophet newsletters" on Harry Potter Lexicon

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