Chapter 27 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: The Final Hiding Place
With no way to steer the Dragon, Harry, Hermione, and Ron can merely hang on, hoping for an opportunity to land safely. Fortunately, the beast seems unaware they are aboard. They tightly clutch the Dragon's scales, but if it banks or rolls over, they will fall off. The Dragon continues flying north, seemingly knowing where it is headed, despite being half-blind. Harry wonders if Voldemort has been informed yet that the Lestrange vault was breached. When he is, Voldemort will know Harry is hunting his Horcruxes and may have located others.
After some hours, the Dragon descends and glides over a small lake for a drink. The Trio jumps into the water, making it safely ashore through the reeds. Harry immediately casts protective charms, and they change into dry clothes and tend their burn wounds with Dittany. Although they have successfully retrieved Hufflepuff's Cup, Gryffindor's Sword is lost, rendering them powerless to destroy the remaining Horcruxes. As Ron grumbles over Griphook double-crossing them, pain suddenly streaks across Harry's forehead. He sees a Goblin cowering on his knees before Voldemort while wizards in a semi-circle look on. Voldemort screams in rage when the Goblin reports the Potter boy and his two accomplices took the Cup. Slashing the air with the Elder Wand, the Dark Lord slays the Goblin. Bellatrix, Lucius Malfoy, and the other wizards dart from the room in terror— anyone left behind is fatally felled. Voldemort wonders if Harry knows what the other Horcruxes are, and if he, Voldemort, can feel when they are being destroyed. Voldemort knows the Diary Horcrux was lost, but believes he was unable to detect it because he still lacked a body then. He suspects Dumbledore was involved; Dumbledore never trusted him. Voldemort is confident, however, that the Ring Horcrux remains intact—no one ever connected him to the Gaunts, after all. And the sea cave is too well protected for anyone to penetrate its security, therefore the Locket inside it must still be safe. He will go to Hogwarts to check on the one there; but Nagini must stay with him, must stay safe. But Dumbledore might have known his middle name and made that connection, he will check that one first. Then to the cave; that one is surely safe, still it must be checked. And finally, the one at Hogwarts, though it is also certainly safe, nobody else knows about that place.
Harry opens his eyes to Ron and Hermione peering down at him. Harry says Voldemort knows they are hunting his Horcruxes and that the last one is hidden somewhere at Hogwarts. Harry, though unaware what it is, knows Voldemort is heading there to check on it, but believes it is the safest one because Snape is there. Harry decides they will go to Hogsmeade, then slip into Hogwarts. Covering themselves with the Invisibility Cloak, they Apparate to the small village.
As the plot heads towards its conclusion, the Trio races to Hogwarts to find the last Horcrux, though they have no idea what it is and, having lost Gryffindor's Sword, are unable to destroy it and the others. As a reminder, Dumbledore told Harry that he believed there were six Horcruxes: the Diary, the Ring, and the Locket, all now destroyed; the Cup, probably Nagini, and one other. Harry now has evidence that the unknown one is hidden somewhere in Hogwarts, in a place that Voldemort believes no one else knows exists.
Meanwhile, Voldemort's supreme over-confidence in himself has begun to crumble after Harry and company successfully steal Hufflepuff's Cup from Gringotts Bank. Despite his elaborate planning and extensive security measures, clearly his Horcruxes are vulnerable to being identified or destroyed, though Voldemort believes only the Diary has been eliminated. Although Dumbledore was the only one he ever feared, Voldemort's belief that he is the superior wizard has deluded him into a false sense of invincibility, now that Dumbledore is dead. However, underlying fears and insecurities now appear to be eroding what little sanity he still retains, causing him to frequently fly into uncontrollable rages and randomly lash out, often fatally, at any follower unfortunate enough to be within striking distance. Voldemort may now realize that he underestimated Dumbledore's ability to uncover and foil his plans, as well as Harry's resourcefulness in identifying and locating the remaining Horcruxes.
To cope, Voldemort convinces himself he can "feel" when his Horcruxes are destroyed and takes comfort with the false notion that he was unable to detect the Riddle Diary Horcrux being destroyed only because he still lacked a body then. However, he remains ignorant that the Horcruxes within Gaunt's Ring and Slytherin's Locket no longer exist, or that Harry now knows what, or at least where, the remaining Horcruxes are. However, when Voldemort finally does realize this, it will place him on a deadly and irreversible collision course with Harry.
On an unrelated note, while the Trio are riding the Dragon, they are in danger of falling off and must wait until the beast descends before dismounting. Readers may wonder if they could simply have Disapparated to safety while astride it. While there may have been some magical obstacle, this either never occurred to them or, Apparition, requiring that the practitioner turn in place, may be too difficult in such a situation. That necessary "deliberation" step would be impossible while the Trio are holding on for dear life. However, it does appear in an earlier chapter that Mundungus Fletcher is able to Disapparate while similarly beset, though his criminal life has no doubt enabled him to make speedy escapes from difficult corners something he had to learn, and is therefore a skill the Trio lacks.
- Why did Griphook take Gryffindor's Sword?
- Why is Voldemort convinced he will "feel" if his other Horcruxes are destroyed? What proves or disproves this belief?
- What precautions did Voldemort take to protect his Horcruxes? Did they fail? If so, why? What else could he have done?
- Why does Voldemort believe that the Horcrux hidden at Hogwarts is the safest? Is he correct?
- Why does Voldemort believe that no one can ever connect him to the Gaunt family? How was this tie uncovered?
- What is the place in Hogwarts that no one knows about? Why is Voldemort convinced that no one else knows about it? Who does know?
- Is Ron correct that Griphook "double crossed" the Trio by taking Gryffindor's Sword? Explain.
- Even if the Trio can find the last Horcrux, how can they destroy it and the other Horcruxes now that they no longer have Gryffindor's Sword?
- Why and how did Voldemort underestimate Dumbledore's abilities to uncover his plan? Does he now underestimate Harry? If so, how?
- Is it safe for the Trio to go to Hogsmeade and Hogwarts without first devising a plan? Are Death Eaters expecting the Trio?
- How well did the Trio's previous break-ins at the Ministry of Magic and Gringotts Bank work, and what did they learn from each incident that they can apply to sneaking into Hogwarts?
Harry has identified nearly all the Horcruxes, but he is still unaware that he carries a soul fragment, that will act similarly to a Horcrux, within himself. Voldemort also fails to realize this, as it was accidentally created during his attempt to kill baby Harry with the Killing curse that rebounded and struck Voldemort instead. The murder attempt sheared off yet another fragment from Voldemort's soul, and because Voldemort's own soul had been ripped from his body, the soul shard instead attached to Harry. Voldemort's snake, Nagini, is also a Horcrux, as Dumbledore suspected; this is never explicitly stated, but it is certainly implied by Voldemort's decision to keep the snake close at hand and protected (as we will shortly see) where Voldemort can defend her.
The place at Hogwarts that Voldemort believes only he has discovered is the Room of Requirement, which, of course, is known to Harry and the many Dumbledore's Army members. This is yet another example of Voldemort's supreme over-confidence; having found the Room of Requirement, likely by accident, and possibly while pacing the halls looking for a place to hide some Dark experiment, Voldemort assumes he is the only wizard smart enough to have discovered it. He seems to retain this view despite the overwhelming evidence of a millennium's accumulated junk in the room when he first entered it, though perhaps he assumed the room had lain forgotten for centuries, or else that the accumulated detritus had somehow migrated there by an automatic process of the castle. Also, after being instructed by Voldemort on how to locate and enter this room, it would certainly seem that Draco should have realized that it was the Room of Requirement, and that he would have mentioned something to Voldemort about Dumbledore's Army once meeting there, and that Dolores Umbridge's Inquisitorial Squad, of which Draco was a member, had raided it. Draco may have realized this, but, fearing for his and his family's lives, obediently listened to Voldemort's instructions in silence, or he may have been unaware that Voldemort believed he was the only person who knew the room existed. Draco may also have subconsciously been hoping that his secret activities in the room would be discovered, thus preventing Draco from having to carry out Voldemort's plan to murder Dumbledore.