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 “We’re in trouble; they suspect,” said Harry as the door slammed behind them and he pulled off the Invisibility Cloak. Griphook jumped down from his shoulders; neither Travers nor Bogrod showed the slightest surprise at the sudden appearance of Harry Potter in their midst. “They’re Imperiused,” he added, in response to Hermione and Ron’s confused queries about Travers and Bogrod, who were both now standing there looking blank. “I don’t think I did it strongly enough, I don’t know. . . .”

And another memory darted through his mind, of the real Bellatrix Lestrange shrieking at him when he had first tried to use an Unforgivable Curse: “You need to mean them, Potter!”

“What do we do?” asked Ron. “Shall we get out now, while we can?”

“If we can,” said Hermione, looking back toward the door into the main hall, beyond which who knew what was happening.

“We’ve got this far, I say we go on,” said Harry.

“Good!” said Griphook. “So, we need Bogrod to control the cart; I no longer have the authority. But there will not be room for the wizard.”

Harry pointed his wand at Travers.











The wizard turned and set off along the dark track at a smart pace.

“What are you making him do?”

“Hide,” said Harry as he pointed his wand at Bogrod, who whistled to summon a little cart that came trundling along the tracks toward them out of the darkness. Harry was sure he could hear shouting behind them in the main hall as they all clambered into it, Bogrod in front with Griphook, Harry, Ron, and Hermione crammed together in the back.

With a jerk the cart moved off, gathering speed: They hurtled past Travers, who was wriggling into a crack in the wall, then the cart began twisting and turning through the labyrinthine passages, sloping downward all the time. Harry could not hear anything over the rattling of the cart on the tracks: His hair flew behind him as they swerved between stalactites, flying ever deeper into the earth, but he kept glancing back. They might as well have left enormous footprints behind them; the more he thought about it, the more foolish it seemed to have disguised Hermione as Bellatrix, to have brought along Bellatrix’s wand, when the Death Eaters knew who had stolen it —

They were deeper than Harry had ever penetrated within Gringotts; they took a hairpin bend at speed and saw ahead of them, with seconds to spare, a waterfall pounding over the track. Harry heard Griphook shout, “No!” but there was no braking: They zoomed through it. Water filled Harry’s eyes and mouth: He could not see or breathe: Then, with an awful lurch, the cart flipped over and they were all thrown out of it. Harry heard the cart smash into pieces against the passage wall, heard Hermione shriek something, and felt himself glide back toward the ground as though weightless, landing painlessly on the rocky passage floor.






“C-Cushioning Charm,” Hermione spluttered, as Ron pulled her to her feet, but to Harry’s horror he saw that she was no longer Bellatrix; instead she stood there in overlarge robes, sopping wet and completely herself; Ron was red-haired and beardless again. They were realizing it as they looked at each other, feeling their own faces.

“The Thief ’s Downfall!” said Griphook, clambering to his feet and looking back at the deluge onto the tracks, which, Harry knew now, had been more than water. “It washes away all enchantment, all magical concealment! They know there are impostors in Gringotts, they have set off defenses against us!”

Harry saw Hermione checking that she still had the beaded bag, and hurriedly thrust his own hand under his jacket to make sure he had not lost the Invisibility Cloak. Then he turned to see Bogrod shaking his head in bewilderment: The Thief ’s Downfall seemed to have lifted the Imperius Curse.

“We need him,” said Griphook, “we cannot enter the vault without a Gringotts goblin. And we need the Clankers!”

“Imperio!” Harry said again; his voice echoed through the stone passage as he felt again the sense of heady control that flowed from brain to wand. Bogrod submitted once more to his will, his befuddled expression changing to one of polite indifference, as Ron hurried to pick up the leather bag of metal tools.






“Harry, I think I can hear people coming!” said Hermione, and she pointed Bellatrix’s wand at the waterfall and cried, “Protego!” They saw the Shield Charm break the flow of enchanted water as it flew up the passageway.

“Good thinking,” said Harry. “Lead the way, Griphook!”

“How are we going to get out again?” Ron asked as they hurried on foot into the darkness after the goblin, Bogrod panting in their wake like an old dog.

“Let’s worry about that when we have to,” said Harry. He was trying to listen: He thought he could hear something clanking and moving around nearby. “Griphook, how much farther?”

“Not far, Harry Potter, not far . . .”

And they turned a corner and saw the thing for which Harry had been prepared, but which still brought all of them to a halt.

A gigantic dragon was tethered to the ground in front of them, barring access to four or five of the deepest vaults in the place. The beast’s scales had turned pale and flaky during its long incarceration under the ground; its eyes were milkily pink; both rear legs bore heavy cuffs from which chains led to enormous pegs driven deep into the rocky floor. Its great spiked wings, folded close to its body, would have filled the chamber if it spread them, and when it turned its ugly head toward them, it roared with a noise that made the rock tremble, opened its mouth, and spat a jet of fire that sent them running back up the passageway.









“It is partially blind,” panted Griphook, “but even more savage for that. However, we have the means to control it. It has learned what to expect when the Clankers come. Give them to me.”

Ron passed the bag to Griphook, and the goblin pulled out a number of small metal instruments that when shaken made a loud, ringing noise like miniature hammers on anvils. Griphook handed them out: Bogrod accepted his meekly.

“You know what to do,” Griphook told Harry, Ron, and Hermione. “It will expect pain when it hears the noise: It will retreat, and Bogrod must place his palm upon the door of the vault.”

They advanced around the corner again, shaking the Clankers, and the noise echoed off the rocky walls, grossly magnified, so that the inside of Harry’s skull seemed to vibrate with the din. The dragon let out another hoarse roar, then retreated. Harry could see it trembling, and as they drew nearer he saw the scars made by vicious slashes across its face, and guessed that it had been taught to fear hot swords when it heard the sound of the Clankers.

“Make him press his hand to the door!” Griphook urged Harry, who turned his wand again upon Bogrod. The old goblin obeyed, pressing his palm to the wood, and the door of the vault melted away to reveal a cavelike opening crammed from floor to ceiling with golden coins and goblets, silver armor, the skins of strange creatures — some with long spines, others with drooping wings — potions in jeweled flasks, and a skull still wearing a crown.

“Search, fast!” said Harry as they all hurried inside the vault.

He had described Hufflepuff ’s cup to Ron and Hermione, but if it was the other, unknown Horcrux that resided in this vault, he did not know what it looked like. He barely had time to glance around, however, before there was a muffled clunk from behind them: The door had reappeared, sealing them inside the vault, and they were plunged into total darkness.








“No matter, Bogrod will be able to release us!” said Griphook as Ron gave a shout of surprise. “Light your wands, can’t you? And hurry, we have very little time!”


Harry shone his lit wand around the vault: Its beam fell upon glittering jewels; he saw the fake sword of Gryffindor lying on a high shelf amongst a jumble of chains. Ron and Hermione had lit their wands too, and were now examining the piles of objects surrounding them.

“Harry, could this be — ? Aargh!”

Hermione screamed in pain, and Harry turned his wand on her in time to see a jeweled goblet tumbling from her grip. But as it fell, it split, became a shower of goblets, so that a second later, with a great clatter, the floor was covered in identical cups rolling in every direction, the original impossible to discern amongst them.

“It burned me!” moaned Hermione, sucking her blistered fingers.







“They have added Gemino and Flagrante Curses!” said 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!”

“Okay, don’t touch anything!” said Harry desperately, but even as he said it, Ron accidentally nudged one of the fallen goblets with his foot, and twenty more exploded into being while Ron hopped on the spot, part of his shoe burned away by contact with the hot metal.

“Stand still, don’t move!” said Hermione, clutching at Ron.

“Just look around!” said Harry. “Remember, the cup’s small and gold, it’s got a badger engraved on it, two handles — otherwise see if you can spot Ravenclaw’s symbol anywhere, the eagle —”





They directed their wands into every nook and crevice, turning cautiously on the spot. It was impossible not to brush up against anything; Harry sent a great cascade of fake Galleons onto the ground where they joined the goblets, and now there was scarcely room to place their feet, and the glowing gold blazed with heat, so that the vault felt like a furnace. Harry’s wandlight passed over shields and goblin-made helmets set on shelves rising to the ceiling; higher and higher he raised the beam, until suddenly it found an object that made his heart skip and his hand tremble.

“It’s there, it’s up there!”

Ron and Hermione pointed their wands at it too, so that the little golden cup sparkled in a three-way spotlight: the cup that had belonged to Helga Hufflepuff, which had passed into the possession of Hepzibah Smith, from whom it had been stolen by Tom Riddle.

“And how the hell are we going to get up there without touching anything?” asked Ron.

“Accio Cup!” cried Hermione, who had evidently forgotten in her desperation what Griphook had told them during their planning sessions.

“No use, no use!” snarled the goblin.

“Then what do we do?” said Harry, glaring at the goblin. “If you want the sword, Griphook, then you’ll have to help us more than — wait! Can I touch stuff with the sword? Hermione, give it here!”

Hermione fumbled inside her robes, drew out the beaded bag, rummaged for a few seconds, then removed the shining sword. Harry seized it by its rubied hilt and touched the tip of the blade to a silver flagon nearby, which did not multiply.









“If I can just poke the sword through a handle — but how am I going to get up there?”

The shelf on which the cup reposed was out of reach for any of them, even Ron, who was tallest. The heat from the enchanted treasure rose in waves, and sweat ran down Harry’s face and back as he struggled to think of a way up to the cup; and then he heard the dragon roar on the other side of the vault door, and the sound of clanking growing louder and louder.

They were truly trapped now: There was no way out except through the door, and a horde of goblins seemed to be approaching on the other side. Harry looked at Ron and Hermione and saw terror in their faces.

“Hermione,” said Harry as the clanking grew louder, “I’ve got to get up there, we’ve got to get rid of it —”

She raised her wand, pointed it at Harry, and whispered, “Levicorpus.”

Hoisted into the air by his ankle, Harry hit a suit of armor and replicas burst out of it like white-hot bodies, filling the cramped space. With screams of pain Ron, Hermione, and the two goblins were knocked aside into other objects, which also began to replicate. Half buried in a rising tide of red-hot treasure, they struggled and yelled as Harry thrust the sword through the handle of Hufflepuff ’s cup, hooking it onto the blade.







“Impervius!” screeched Hermione in an attempt to protect herself, Ron, and the goblins from the burning metal.

Then the worst scream yet made Harry look down: Ron and Hermione were waist-deep in treasure, struggling to keep Bogrod from slipping beneath the rising tide, but Griphook had sunk out of sight and nothing but the tips of a few long fingers were left in view.

Harry seized Griphook’s fingers and pulled. The blistered goblin emerged by degrees, howling.

“Liberacorpus!” yelled Harry, and with a crash he and Griphook landed on the surface of the swelling treasure, and the sword flew out of Harry’s hand.

“Get it!” Harry yelled, fighting the pain of the hot metal on his skin, as Griphook clambered onto his shoulders again, determined to avoid the swelling mass of red-hot objects. “Where’s the sword? It had the cup on it!”

The clanking on the other side of the door was growing deafening — it was too late —


It was Griphook who had seen it and Griphook who lunged, and in that instant Harry knew that the goblin had never expected them to keep their word. One hand holding tightly to a fistful of Harry’s hair, to make sure he did not fall into the heaving sea of burning gold, Griphook seized the hilt of the sword and swung it high out of Harry’s reach.









The tiny golden cup, skewered by the handle on the sword’s blade, was flung into the air. The goblin still astride him, Harry dived and caught it, and although he could feel it scalding his flesh he did not relinquish it, even while countless Hufflepuff cups burst from his fist, raining down upon him as the entrance of the vault opened up again and he found himself sliding uncontrollably on an expanding avalanche of fiery gold and silver that bore him, Ron, and Hermione into the outer chamber.

Hardly aware of the pain from the burns covering his body, and still borne along on the swell of replicating treasure, Harry shoved the cup into his pocket and reached up to retrieve the sword, but Griphook was gone. Sliding from Harry’s shoulders the moment he could, he had sprinted for cover amongst the surrounding goblins, brandishing the sword and crying, “Thieves! Thieves! Help! Thieves!” He vanished into the midst of the advancing crowd, all of whom were holding daggers and who accepted him without question.

Slipping on the hot metal, Harry struggled to his feet and knew that the only way out was through.

“Stupefy!” he bellowed, and Ron and Hermione joined in: Jets of red light flew into the crowd of goblins, and some toppled over, but others advanced, and Harry saw several wizard guards running around the corner.





The tethered dragon let out a roar, and a gush of flame flew over the goblins: The wizards fled, doubled-up, back the way they had come, and inspiration, or madness, came to Harry. Pointing his wand at the thick cuffs chaining the beast to the floor, he yelled, “Relashio!”

The cuffs broke open with loud bangs.

“This way!” Harry yelled, and still shooting Stunning Spells at the advancing goblins, he sprinted toward the blind dragon.

“Harry — Harry — what are you doing?” cried Hermione.

“Get up, climb up, come on —”

The dragon had not realized that it was free: Harry’s foot found the crook of its hind leg and he pulled himself up onto its back. The scales were hard as steel; it did not even seem to feel him. He stretched out an arm; Hermione hoisted herself up; Ron climbed on behind them, and a second later the dragon became aware that it was untethered.







With a roar it reared: Harry dug in his knees, clutching as tightly as he could to the jagged scales as the wings opened, knocking the shrieking goblins aside like skittles, and it soared into the air. Harry, Ron, and Hermione, flat on its back, scraped against the ceiling as it dived toward the passage opening, while the pursuing goblins hurled daggers that glanced off its flanks.

“We’ll never get out, it’s too big!” Hermione screamed, but the dragon opened its mouth and belched flame again, blasting the tunnel, whose floors and ceiling cracked and crumbled. By sheer force the dragon clawed and fought its way through. Harry’s eyes were shut tight against the heat and dust: Deafened by the crashing of rock and the dragon’s roars, he could only cling to its back, expecting to be shaken off at any moment; then he heard Hermione yelling, “Defodio!”

She was helping the dragon enlarge the passageway, carving out the ceiling as it struggled upward toward the fresher air, away from the shrieking and clanking goblins: Harry and Ron copied her, blasting the ceiling apart with more gouging spells. They passed the underground lake, and the great crawling, snarling beast seemed to sense freedom and space ahead of it, and behind them the passage was full of the dragon’s thrashing, spiked tail, of great lumps of rock, gigantic fractured stalactites, and the clanking of the goblins seemed to be growing more muffled, while ahead, the dragon’s fire kept their progress clear —

And then at last, by the combined force of their spells and the dragon’s brute strength, they had blasted their way out of the passage into the marble hallway. Goblins and wizards shrieked and ran for cover, and finally the dragon had room to stretch its wings: Turning its horned head toward the cool outside air it could smell beyond the entrance, it took off, and with Harry, Ron, and Hermione still clinging to its back, it forced its way through the metal doors, leaving them buckled and hanging from their hinges, as it staggered into Diagon Alley and launched itself into the sky.






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