Chapter 26 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Gringotts
Their plan is simple: accompany Griphook to Gringotts Wizarding Bank. Hermione, disguised as Bellatrix Lestrange by using Polyjuice Potion, can open her vault and retrieve the Horcrux. They have Bellatrix's wand that was captured at Malfoy Manor, and strands of her hair for the Polyjuice Potion. Bellatrix's wand performs poorly for Hermione, however, worrying her, though Draco's hawthorn wand works well for Harry. He suspects Hermione is having difficulty because she did not capture the wand's allegiance as he did with Draco's. Harry, eager to leave Shell Cottage, frets over how to prevent Griphook from keeping Gryffindor's Sword after breaching the Lestrange vault.
Harry informs Bill and Fleur that they are leaving early, and requests Bill not see them off; with Hermione in disguise, Harry wants to prevent him from guessing their plan. Before Apparating out, Harry sadly glimpses Dobby's grave and wonders how the House-elf knew to save them. Hermione is so convincing in her Bellatrix disguise, that Harry shivers with loathing. Ron, also disguised, grouses about his appearance. Harry, with Griphook on his shoulders, will be hidden under the Invisibility Cloak.
Inside Diagon Alley, they are taken aback by the changes. Dark Arts shops now line the street while many familiar stores have been boarded over. Witches and wizards whose wands have been confiscated beg in the street, and Harry's "Undesirable Number One" wanted posters are everywhere. Their plan proceeds reasonably well. Hermione makes a convincing Bellatrix, though Harry warns her against being too polite to subordinates. Travers, a Death Eater, approaches and addresses "Bellatrix". He is surprised Bellatrix is outside Malfoy Manor after hearing everyone there had been confined to the house and that Bellatrix's wand was lost. Hermione dismisses his comment by responding that the Dark Lord shows mercy to those who have served him well. Travers' suspicions seem eased, and he accompanies the group to Gringotts. Two human guards there have Probity Probes that detect concealment charms. Harry Confunds them and Hermione passes unchecked, though their apparent confusion causes Travers a moment's pause. Inside, the Goblins request Bellatrix's identification. When Hermione hesitates, one nervously says that her wand is sufficient proof, though she claims it is new. Harry suspects the Goblins know that Bellatrix's wand was stolen and are looking for an impostor. Griphook suggests using the Imperius curse on the Goblin, Bogrod, who then accepts this wand as being correct. Harry also puts Travers under the curse when he becomes suspicious, knowing there are no wandmakers available. Bogrod requests the Clankers, then leads Hermione and Ron, with Harry, Griphook, and Travers into a passageway. The door slams shut, and Harry sends Travers away to hide. Bogrod, still under the Imperius curse, summons a cart that descends deep within Gringotts. After many twists and turns, the cart passes through a security waterfall that washes away all illusion charms. When the cart overturns and dumps them out, Hermione and Ron are themselves. Griphook believes the other Goblins know they are impostors, but Harry wants to continue and curses Bogrod again.
The Lestrange vault is guarded by an aged, half-blind Dragon that Griphook subdues by using the Clankers. Harry guesses that the cowering Dragon associates the Clanker noise with pain. Hearing pursuit approaching, Harry forces Bogrod to open the vault, which is filled with precious objects. The vault closes behind them. Griphook says Bogrod can release them, but they must search quickly. Hermione screams in pain. The vault's protective charm causes the contents to start multiplying and become searing hot every time something is touched. Harry spots Hufflepuff’s Cup, but it is out of reach. Hermione levitates Harry, and he snags the Cup with Gryffindor's Sword, while Hermione, Ron, Griphook, and Bogrod struggle to stay above the hot multiplying objects below. As Harry sets himself down, he drops the Sword and the Cup. Griphook grabs Gryffindor's Sword, and flips Hufflepuff's Cup up into the air. Harry catches it, ignoring the searing heat. Borne by a treasure avalanche spilling from the now-opened vault, Griphook runs off clutching Gryffindor's Sword, yelling that thieves are in the vault. Harry, Hermione, and Ron hurl curses at the Goblin throng. Harry releases the half-blind Dragon and the three jump on its back. The freed Dragon takes flight, the Trio blasting holes into the ceiling for it to fly through as they make their escape.
Although the Trio and Griphook spent much time carefully planning the Gringotts break-in, it may not have been as well thought-out as they believed, which is surprising considering their near-disastrous experience at the Ministry of Magic. It should have occurred to them after witnessing Bellatrix's extreme reaction over the Lestrange vault, that Gringotts could have been alerted about a possible attempt to breach it, and that Harry has Bellatrix's captured wand. It is possible that Griphook, distrusting Harry's agreement, which Harry never intended to immediately honour, may have planned on the Trio being caught so he could reclaim Gryffindor's Sword for Goblins. Although there is no definitive proof for this, he apparently knew what security measures were in place, and should have been able to advise the Trio on how to avert them. The caper also placed a heavy burden on Hermione, who had to convincingly portray Bellatrix. Despite executing the deception relatively well, it is likely that Gringotts may have been tipped off.
As they arrive in Diagon Alley, the Trio, who have remained relatively isolated from the magical community, now see the direct result that Voldemort's take-over has had on the Wizarding world. Many familiar stores are gone, boarded up, or have been replaced by Dark Arts shops that probably were in Knockturn Alley. Muggle-borns, homeless and their wands confiscated, have been reduced to begging in the streets.
It almost seems that Harry's quest has reached a dead-end. Of the six Horcruxes that he believes to exist, three (Riddle's Diary, the Gaunt Ring, and Slytherin's Locket) have been destroyed. He has found a fourth, but has lost the means to destroy it, and while he believes that the fifth may be Nagini, he has no idea what the final one is, or where it is hidden. How shall he proceed?
Also, readers may remember Travers as one of the Death Eaters who appeared at Xenophilius Lovegood's house when Xeno alerted the Voldemort-controlled Ministry of Magic that Harry, Hermione, and Ron had arrived there. The Trio likely never recognized him, probably only briefly glimpsing him while they were escaping the Lovegood house. Travers was also mentioned when the Trio were infiltrating the Ministry; Umbridge assumed that Travers had sent Mafalda Hopkirk to be her recorder, thus taking Hermione, who was disguised as her, away for what promised to be a full day in court.
- Why does Harry choose to proceed to the vault rather than escape, even though he is aware the Goblins know they are impostors?
- Why does Travers become suspicious?
- Why did Griphook flip up Hufflepuff's Cup to Harry as he (Griphook) ran off with Gryffindor's sword?
- Why didn't Griphook warn the Trio about the magical waterfall that washed away protective charms, the hot, multiplying objects in the vault, and other safeguards?
- Before Fred and George went into hiding, how might their joke shop have been affected by the changes in Diagon Alley?
- Now that the sword is gone, how will the Trio be able to destroy the remaining Horcruxes? How can they get the sword back?
- Are there other ways to kill a Horcrux other than the Sword of Gryffindor? If so, how come the Trio has not considered them?
As we know, Basilisk venom destroys Horcruxes. With the Sword of Gryffindor now no longer available, Harry may have to go to the only place that the venom exists: the Chamber of Secrets beneath Hogwarts. As it turns out, there will be a more compelling reason for Harry to return to Hogwarts; Voldemort, enraged when he discovers that a Horcrux has been stolen, will shortly visit all his Horcruxes to reassure himself they are safe, and Harry, tuned into Voldemort's thoughts, will learn that one Horcrux is hidden at Hogwarts, as he had long suspected. Thus, he will be forced to visit the school in any event. At the moment, though, Harry is 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.