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Harry Potter: "The vault we need to get into isn't empty, and I'm guessing its protection will be pretty powerful. It belongs to the Lestranges."
Griphook: "You have no chance. No chance at all."
— Discussion of breaking into Gringotts[src]

There was a break-in of Gringotts Wizarding Bank on 1 May, 1998,[1] 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.[2]

The trio broke into the bank with Hermione disguised as Bellatrix Lestrange, Ron given a fake identity as a disguise, while 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 half-blind dragon out of the bank in what would become a famous escape.[2]

This break-in 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.[5]


Background information

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 explaining how he deduced the location of the Horcrux[src]

After escaping Malfoy Manor in the spring of 1998, the trio stayed at Shell Cottage for a period of time with Luna Lovegood, Dean Thomas, Mr Ollivander, and Griphook.[6][7]

Shell Cottage, where the plan seeded

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 deduced that this was another of Voldemort’s Horcruxes, based on how frantic Bellatrix was during the interogation, and thus needed a way to get into the vault in order to steal it.[8][6] A plan was then conceived to break into Gringotts, during their stay at Shell Cottage.[7]

The plan

Bargain with 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."
— Griphook making his request for the Sword of Gryffindor[src]

Harry and Griphook discussing breaking into Gringotts

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 the Sword of Gryffindor. 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.[7]

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 race and wizards.[7]


"Bellatrix Lestrange was striding across the lawn toward them, accompanied by Griphook... Though Harry knew it was Hermione, he could not suppress a shiver of loathing."
— Hermione disguised as Bellatrix Lestrange[src]

The trio and Griphook preparing to Apparate into Diagon Alley

In the early hours of the morning of 1 May the trio put their plan into action. Hermione used a strand of Bellatrix's hair, which had fallen onto her jumper when she and the others were being held at Malfoy Manor, to disguise herself as Bellatrix with Polyjuice Potion. Hermione stated that the potion tasted "disgusting, worse than Gurdyroots".

She also transfigured various aspects of Ron's appearance (hair length and beard) to disguise him as "Dragomir Despard", a foreign wizard. Harry and Griphook hid under his invisibility cloak. The group apparated separately with. Hermione Apparated herself and Ron via side-along Apparition first and Harry then did the same with Griphook.[2]

The break-in

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 Granger (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's haughty manner[src]

The trio and Griphook standing in Diagon Alley

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 No. 1" 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 visibly 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.[2]

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 the Dark Lord showed mercy to those who have served him well in the past. Travers's suspicions seemed eased, and he accompanied them into the bank.[2]

Getting inside

"Harry acted without thinking: Pointing his wand at Travers, he muttered, 'Imperio!' once more"
— Harry using the Imperius Curse on Travers and Bogrod to gain entry into the vault[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 two guards and Hermione passed by them unchecked, though their apparent confusion causes Travers a moment's pause, but did nothing further and continued on into the bank. When they reached the counters, Travers presented his key to the Goblin employees, who requested Bellatrix's (Hermione's) identification.[2]

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

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. Hermione and Ron were temporarily confused by the sudden change in attitude from the old goblin and the Death Eater, but despite this they did not give themselves away.[2]

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, and the Imperius Curse on Bogrod was lifted. Griphook believed the other Goblins knew they were impostors, but Harry decided to continue and used the Imperius Curse on Bogrod once more.[2]

Within the 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 Potter: "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 inside the vault[src]

The half-blind dragon guarding the vaults at Gringotts

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.

The trio within the Lestrange Vault

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. 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.[2] 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.[2]

Harry using the Sword of Gryffindor to retrieve Hufflepuff's cup amongst the 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.[2]


"it took off, and with Harry, Ron, and Hermione still clinging to its back.... it staggered into Diagon Alley and launched itself into the sky."
— The trio's escape[src]

The trio escaping Gringotts on the back of a half-blind Ukrainian Ironbelly

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 jumped 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.[2]

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.[2]


"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 about Harry's discovery of his Horcruxes[src]

Harry, Ron, and Hermione leaping from the dragon's back and into a lake

Harry, Ron, and Hermione eventually leapt off the dragon into a lake.[4] The dragon went on its way and presumably reintegrated itself into the wild. 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.[9] Although they had acquired an additional Horcrux, their break-in also exposed their plan to Lord Voldemort, who was enraged when he discovered that a Horcrux had been stolen.

Voldemort reacting to the theft of the cup, one of his Horcruxes

Harry, through his mind connection to the Dark Lord, witnessed his fury that his secret had been discovered, and witnessed Voldemort committing mass murder. Voldemort murdered everyone present who were not able escape his wrath. Harry also witnessed 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.[4]

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 they knew that venom existed: the Chamber of Secrets beneath Hogwarts Castle. Thus, Harry was forced to visit the school for both the reason of attaining Basilisk venom and finding the next Horcrux.

The trio Apparating into Hogsmeade before the start of the final battle

At that time, however, Harry was more interested in collecting Horcruxes than destroying them; he did not even consider how to destroy the Cup Horcrux, being more concerned with preventing Voldemort from reaching the one at Hogwarts. Thus, the trio planned to return to Hogwarts, setting the stage for the final battle of the Second Wizarding War.[4]

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.[10][11]

To this date, this was the only successful break-in in history into a fully secure Gringotts vault, defining success in that the trio entered unnoticed (at first at least), located their target, extracted it from the vault and escaped with it, and further evaded chase and their track was lost.[2] The 1991 break-in could be considered partially successful only in the sense that the thief (Quirinus Quirrell) entered and exited the (empty and thus minimally secure) vault unseen, though not unnoticed.[5]



Notes and references