|Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Major Event|
|Break-in at Gringotts|
|Time Period||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, early May|
|Important Characters||Harry, Hermione, and Ron, Griphook, Travers, Bogrod|
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the Trio, with the help of Griphook, execute a plan to break in to the Gringotts vault of Bellatrix Lestrange's family to steal a Horcrux belonging to Voldemort.
When the Trio is captured and brought to Malfoy Manor, Bellatrix sees that they are carrying the Sword of Gryffindor and panics. She delays summoning Voldemort, fearing grave consequences if he discovers Harry has the sword. Bellatrix tortures Hermione to discover how they came to possess the sword, which Harry had earlier learned was placed in the Lestrange vault at Gringotts for safekeeping. Harry hears Bellatrix demanding to know if anything else was taken from the vault. Griphook, who is hauled upstairs to corroborate Hermione's story that the sword was "just found", at Harry's request falsely states that the sword captured with the Trio is really a fake.
After escaping, Harry believes that Bellatrix's reaction was due to her fear that an object entrusted to her vault by Voldemort may have been compromised. Harry decides to enlist the help of Griphook, a former Gringotts goblin, to penetrate the vault and seize what is probably one of Voldemort's Horcruxes. Griphook, understanding that they do not seek personal gain, grudgingly agrees to get them into the vault if the Trio returns the Goblin-made Sword of Gryffindor to him and the Goblin community.
With Hermione disguised as Bellatrix, Ron made to look like a foreign wizard, and Harry with Griphook under the Invisibility Cloak, they set out for Gringotts. Meeting the Death Eater Travers on the way complicates their plans, but with Harry's spells and Griphook's advice they gain access to the vault.
The objects in the vault are enchanted with Gemino and Flagrante and thus multiply and become burning hot when touched. With great difficulty Harry finds Hufflepuff's Cup, a likely vessel for a Horcrux. Griphook turns against the Trio, takes possession of the Sword of Gryffindor, and rejoins the bank's Goblins who are responding to the break-in.
The Trio run for their lives, and in desperation mount a dragon imprisoned to guard the vaults. Harry breaks its chains, and with assisting spells from Hermione, the dragon escapes Gringotts with the Trio riding on its back. Many miles from London, the Trio jump off the dragon into a lake and swim ashore. Harry has the Cup Horcrux but the Sword is lost.
While successful in acquiring the Cup Horcrux, the Trio has lost the Sword of Gryffindor to Griphook. The sword is one of the few known ways to destroy a Horcrux, and they must now devise a new method for its destruction.
The Trio have also lost the concealment of their mission; the very public break-in to the Lestrange vault lets Voldemort know that Harry is hunting his Horcruxes. Voldemort's fury on hearing of the loss of the Cup Horcrux overflows as he murders the Goblin who brings him the news, and then a number of others who simply happen to be in the room. Harry, through his visions of Voldemort's state of mind, realizes that there is no more time to find a way to destroy the cup Horcrux. The Trio must set out immediately for Hogwarts in the hope of finding the remaining Horcrux, and hope to find a way to destroy it and the Cup Horcrux once they get there. Harry receives confirmation from Voldemort's thoughts that there is a Horcrux concealed at Hogwarts, something he had long believed.
While walking in Diagon Alley toward Gringotts, the Trio (and the reader) get a glimpse of the misery Voldemort has imposed on the Wizarding community. We see Muggle-born witches and wizards, stripped of their wands, begging for gold. Others are desperate for news about lost family members, victims of the new regime. Many shops are boarded up. Diagon Alley has become a depressing and dark place.
Gringotts is described, from Harry's first day in the Wizarding World, as the safest place to store one's valuables. Despite a break-in to the empty Vault 713 that same day, we never hear of anyone who has actually walked away with anything safeguarded at Gringotts. Therefore, the Trio's plan to steal an object from a high security Gringotts vault is their most outrageous adventure yet. For seven years the Trio has found the need to hatch missions against the Dark Forces, each bolder and more hazardous than before. It would seem that the Trio have once again succeeded in doing something that could not have been imagined before; one wonders what they can do to top this escapade.
The process of persuading Griphook to assist the Trio is of interest as well. We hear that Griphook had left Gringotts due to excessive interference by "wand-bearers", Voldemort's lieutenants trying to exert some control over the banking system. Despite his being no longer employed by Gringotts, he clearly still feels loyalty towards the bank, and does not wish to violate it. He does eventually agree to help Harry; his rationalization is that, as the Trio seek only one specific item, and that not for personal gain but for the good of the entire Wizarding world, it is not as thieves that they would be entering. He still has some resistance to the idea, however, resistance which is only overcome by the prospect of returning the Sword of Gryffindor to what he feels is its rightful place.
Harry expresses some concerns about the possible loss of the Sword, as that is the only convenient means they have for destroying Horcruxes. Harry and Ron between them determine that they will return the Sword to Griphook once all the Horcruxes are destroyed, but Griphook thwarts that plan by seizing the Sword and departing with it.
- How might this break-in affect the delicate relationship between wizards and goblins?
One consequence, unmentioned above, of this action is that news of Harry's invasion of Gringotts and escape on dragonback reaches Hogwarts that same night, before Harry himself does. This serves to invigorate the re-activated Dumbledore's Army, providing a morale boost. While this would normally assist with the rebellion against the Death Eater control of Hogwarts, Harry himself appears at Hogwarts so soon after the news that any effect the news would have is overshadowed.
In the course of their deception and break-in at Gringotts, Harry uses the Imperius Curse on Travers, twice, and twice on the Gringotts goblin Bogrod. This is the second time Harry has used an Unforgivable Curse, a very serious crime; the first was at the Battle in the Ministry when he used the Cruciatus Curse against Bellatrix Lestrange. Harry will also use the Cruciatus Curse on Amycus Carrow. It is clearly true that without the Imperius Curse, the suspicious Bogrod and Travers would have raised the alarm and the mission would have failed at its inception. However, Harry's desperation to get the Horcrux caused him again to cross a moral threshold from Light to Dark. This is, of course, not the first time; he has used Dark magic before, though previously it was used only in urgent self defence, when it was also being used against him. A theme in the Harry Potter series is the folly of believing in the "Greater Good" at the expense of one's ethical and moral center. Therefore, Harry should be remorseful for going to such extremes in his quest to destroy Voldemort. If he does feel remorse, however, we are not allowed to see it. In this perspective, Harry is portrayed as the Flawed Hero who occasionally stumbles and loses his purity of heart. It is worth noting, however, that while Harry does use the Cruciatus, Imperius, and Sectumsempra curses, he never kills anyone, even in the heat of the moment. Even in the final battle, when Harry defeats Voldemort, Harry does not cast the killing curse; Voldemort himself does that.