Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In Prisoner of Azkaban, Sirius Black anonymously sends Harry a Firebolt broom after the demise of Harry's Nimbus 2000 in the Whomping Willow. At the end of PoA, Sirius writes Harry a letter and explains that, yes, it was he who sent the Firebolt:

There is something I never got round to telling you during our brief meeting. It was I who sent you the Firebolt – Crookshanks took the order to the Owl Office for me. I used your name but told them to take the gold from Gringotts vault number seven hundred and eleven – my own. Please consider it as thirteen birthdays’ worth of presents from your godfather.

Prisoner of Azkaban - page 315 - Bloomsbury - chapter 22, Owl Post Again

Throughout the entire series it's made very obvious that breaching Gringotts' security was punishable by death. Gringotts had tons of security measures in place (and for the sake of this question, I'm not talking about the successful break-in the trio pulled off in Deathly Hallows).

Vault seven hundred and thirteen had no keyhole.

‘Stand back,’ said Griphook importantly. He stroked the door gently with one of his long fingers and it simply melted away. ‘If anyone but a Gringotts goblin tried that, they’d be sucked through the door and trapped in there,’ said Griphook.

‘How often do you check to see if anyone’s inside?’ Harry asked.

‘About once every ten years,’ said Griphook, with a rather nasty grin.

Philosopher's Stone - page 59 - Bloomsbury - chapter 5, Diagon Alley

Why did the Gringotts goblins act on Sirius's written direction that the money for the Firebolt should be taken out of his vault instead of Harry's? Sirius was the most wanted wizard in Britain at the time and it would seem that the goblins wouldn't have followed such suspicious directions so blithely when they received the request for funds from, presumably, Quality Quidditch Supplies for the broom. Why wasn't the Ministry notified that a request for funds from Sirius Black's vault had been made? How is it possible that Sirius was able to purchase Harry's broom via third party? Why did Gringotts pay out?

★ I'm looking for a canon-based answer (the Harry Potter novels and three supplemental books, any J.K. Rowling interviews with relevant information, or Pottermore). I do not prefer an answer from the HP Wikia/Wikipedia.

share|improve this question
I'd be happy to see a canon answer, though if Slytherincess doesn't know it... :) Personal thoughts - I picture Gringotts as a bit like having a Swiss bank account - secure, private, etc. I'd imagine that, as an account holder, Sirius has some security established - code phrase, etc. And as long as the password is given, they wouldn't care a bit about who it was or what sanctions might be placed against him by the ministry. Unfortunately, no canon information. – Saiboogu Nov 5 '12 at 18:45
@Saiboogu +1 for the Swiss bank account comparison - that's what I was imagining, too. There's some information in canon about how the goblins don't care to meddle in Wizarding affairs from the part where Harry and Griphook go get the Hufflepuff Cup in the Gringotts vault. I don't have it in front of me, but this makes me think they'd stay neutral on the matter of Sirius Black. – hairboat Nov 5 '12 at 19:03
@Slytherincess: think more about what Hagrid does when he takes the brown package from the vault. He shows a written order from Dumbledore to Gringotts. If Dumbledore can give a written order to allow to access his vault, and a similar method works for Muggles with cheques and visa cards, then I think Sirius could also give a written order to Gringotts to pay a certain amount to the broom company. – b_jonas Nov 6 '12 at 15:34
The cheques that we muggles write are just a written instruction to the bank to give out of an account and give it to someone. Before the advent of the standard cheque form, you could just write the instructions in a letter or on a piece of paper. The bank would validate the instructions by checking the signature, seal, or other mark on the letter. It's not hard to imagine that Sirius could write out some instructions and Gringott's would have a way to validate that they were written by someone with permission to control the account. – Kenster Nov 6 '12 at 19:02
Late comment is late: but I always thought using Harry's name was supposed to work whether or not the Goblins knew or cared it was really Sirius Black because Harry was also supposed to be Sirius' heir and hence also able to rightfully withdraw from his Gringott's account. – Shisa Feb 22 '15 at 3:23
up vote 66 down vote accepted

I have no hard proof of my claim but nevertheless here it is.
In Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows, Chapter 15, The Goblin's Revenge, when Ted Tonks asks Griphook why was he on the run, Griphook answers:

"What about you, Griphook?"
"Similar reasons," said the higher-voiced goblin. "Gringotts is no longer under sole control of my race. I recognize no master."

According to this paragraph I assume that the Goblins of Gringotts are not subjected or held liable by Wizarding law. So they are by no means compelled to share the knowledge about Sirius to any third party including the Ministry of Magic.
Furthermore the same could be said about the Lestrange's vault. The Lestrange family are notorious Death Eaters imprisoned in Azkaban for life but the content of their vault remains untouched while they served in Azkaban whereas the Ministry could have confiscated it if it had any power over Gringotts.

share|improve this answer
Very good point about the Lestrange family. – Darrick Herwehe Jun 9 '15 at 15:09

Again, not quite canon, but the books make it clear that it's very difficult to fool a goblin. (Well, Hermione impersonating Bellatrix aside...?)

So I suggest that the Bank goblins would establish the authenticity of any money order they received, and that it might be as simple to them as the stroke of a finger. I also agree that the books indicate that they wouldn't care what a recently escaped prisoner is doing so long as it's within Gringotts regulations.

Sirius writes the letter -- and the goblins can tell. He signs it with Harry's name to fool anyone screening the post, but knowing it won't mislead the Goblins.

Apparently sloppy work on the Aurors' part, though, not watching Black's vault. Intentional sloppiness by a member of the Order of the Phoenix?

share|improve this answer
I doubt it was intentional sloppiness. Not even Dumbledore knew that Sirius was innocent until the end of PoA so I doubt anybody else in the OotP knew... and that would be the only real reason to be 'sloppy' in the attempt to apprehend Black. – Dason Mar 3 '13 at 16:07

Assuming there was some type of confirmation within the order that allowed the broom shop to contact Gringotts to get the gold from Sirius' vault, neither the broom shop, Gringotts, or the Owl Office would be able to give solid information on Sirius' location to the Ministry.

Whatever information Sirius provided in the broom order wouldn't have allowed anyone to track him or find him.

share|improve this answer
Thanks for the answer and welcome to the site! I'm not sure that your answer addresses the specific question asked. Please be sure to include references to generally accepted canonical sources. – TGnat Nov 6 '12 at 16:07
@TGnat, Treborcram's answer seems well-applied to me. Treborcram's commenting on the information content of the note, which a_Slytherin provided. It's like an intelligence review of emailed messages; we don't need to reference the content to discuss what information could conceivably have been conveyed by the email. – Michael Greisman Mar 5 '13 at 2:44

If Gringott's refused to pay they would lose the confidence of other wizards that their money would be available to them at any time. Surely even Deatheater's kept money in Gringott's and would only do so if they could have access to it even if accused of crimes or whatnot. I believe the Goblins are specifically separate from the government of the Wizarding World and would rather help their customers and keep public confidence than help the government and gain nothing.

Plus, they must have some sort of protocol for money transfers outside of actually picking the money up and hand delivering for large purchases like real estate and rare magical items.

share|improve this answer
No one would care if someone didn't pay Sirius Black, if money wasn't given from his account who would care, nonone. The deatheaters wouldn't, the ministry wouldn't, and I know regular wizard's wouldn't. – Pobrecita Jun 16 '14 at 16:35

A little late for me to say, but since James and Lily and in turn Harry were "family", perhaps Sirius had the Potters down as people who could access the account in his absence.

share|improve this answer
Sirius was Harry's godfather... – Joseph Jun 27 at 13:10

Because goblins don't take part in wizard wars. They only do so if they are forced. ( Canon information). They really wouldn't care if Sirius Black took money from his vault or harry potter or a cat sending a 'suspicious' letter. Really as long as such person has the correct information needed to get into the vault be their guest. They don't care you're not breaking in!

share|improve this answer

I always thought that as Sirius's next of kin, all of his possessions went to Harry legally. Although he was disowned by his family, they still had the legal right to take his stuff if he were to die or no longer be able to have it legally. I think he would have written that James would be the next of kin upon his death. And because Harry inherited everything of his parents he also inherited all of Sirius's things as well protecting his vaults from government possession. So all Harry would have to do is specify which vault to take the money from, which is why Sirius was able to do that.

share|improve this answer
Harry wouldn't have inherited anything until Sirius died. The broom was sent while he was alive. – JohnP Jun 18 '15 at 15:37

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.