While some parents take their children home in the next few days, most stay until the funeral. Important wizards from across the world arrive, as well as large delegations from the Ministry. Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny spend all their time together in the fine summer weather, which seems to “mock” their grief. Every day they visit Bill, who seems largely unchanged by his bite except for a new preference for rare steaks. Fleur says it’s good he’s marrying her, as the British always overcook their meat.
The arrival of Ministry delegates and wizards from around the world recalls the Triwizard Tournament, the last Wizarding event to be held at Hogwarts. However, while the Tournament was supposed to represent international cohesion and strength, the current gathering reflects anxiety and instability now widespread in the same society, showing how much change has occurred in the past years.
At night, Hermione reads the Prophet while Ron asks, as usual, if anyone they know has died. While there have been no new deaths Hermione reports that she’s found some important information in the library this morning. Harry hopes it’s about the Horcruxes, which he can’t stop thinking about even when he’s asleep.
Harry’s inability to stop focusing on the Horcruxes reflects both his central role in fighting Voldemort and the extent to which he’s overwhelmed and lonely in this role.
Instead, she says “tentatively” that she was right about the Half-Blood Prince. After doing some more research she found that Eileen Prince grew up to become Snape’s mother. Since his father was a Muggle, Snape took his mother’s name when coming up with a new identity for himself. Harry reflects that, although he’s been unable to stop thinking about Dumbledore’s mistaken trust in Snape, Hermione has just reminded him that he “had been taken in just the same.”
This is an important moment for Harry. Previously, he’s judged other people for faults or feelings that he himself possesses. Now, his awareness of his own fallibility allows him to identify with and pardon the weaknesses of others – although in this case, the “other” is a person he already respects and admires.
Harry bitterly reflects that he should’ve shown the book to Dumbledore, who might have recognized Snape’s writing and been alerted to his evil nature. Hermione says quietly that “evil” is too strong a word to describe Snape and everyone falls silent, thinking about the funeral the next morning. Harry wonders if Dumbledore’s death will feel more real once his body has been buried.
In refusing to categorize Snape as “evil,” despite his recent actions, Hermione emerges as the inheritor of Dumbledore’s belief in moral complexity and personal redemption. From now on, it’s she who will compel Harry to remember and act on these precepts.
The next day, Harry finds the entire student body glumly eating breakfast in the Great Hall, joined by Rufus Scrimgeour. Looking at the Slytherin table, Harry wonders where Draco is now – he can still remember his fear and hesitancy on the Astronomy tower, and doesn’t believe he would actually have killed Dumbledore. Right now, Voldemort might be forcing him to do other terrible things.
Harry has performed this ritual thousands of times, but Draco’s eerie absence reminds him how much his world has shifted, and reminds him that his school days as he knows them are over.
At McGonagall’s signal, everyone proceeds out of the castle towards the lake, where many witches and wizards are already gathered. Harry sees Luna helping Neville into a chair and feels intense gratitude to them for helping Ron and Hermione on the night of the attack. Looking at all the important people from the Ministry, Harry wonders if any of them feel true grief for Dumbledore’s death. Suddenly a mournful song breaks out and Ginny directs Harry’s attention to the lake where a group of merpeople are singing. Hagrid walks up the aisle between the chairs, carrying Dumbledore’s body wrapped in a shroud.
Often disregarded yet unstinting in their loyalty and bravery, Neville and Luna contrast starkly with the important people who seem to manifest no real emotion over Dumbledore’s death. This moment strengthens the novel’s long-running argument that material success is rarely indicative of character or morals. It also shows that Harry’s distrust of the Ministry is still strong, and will govern his path forward.
A small man in black robes gives a long eulogy to which Harry doesn’t listen. Instead, he watches the merpeople and remembers seeing Dumbledore crouch down to speak to them in their own language. As he looks toward the forest, where the centaurs have assembled to pay their respects, he’s hit “without warning” by the “dreadful truth” that Dumbledore really is gone.
It’s important that Harry remembers Dumbledore communicating with the merpeople and the centaurs. These groups are often marginalized (for example, they’re not formally included in the funeral), and Dumbledore’s actions represent his inclusive vision for the Wizarding world, which distinguishes him not only from Voldemort, but also from a society which often tacitly accepts these inequalities.
Harry remembers the advice Dumbledore gave him during his first year: that it’s always important to fight against evil, even though it can only be “kept at bay” and never “eradicated.” He thinks about all the people, from his parents to Sirius and Dumbledore, who were “determined to protect him” but inevitably died in his defense. It seems like a foolish illusion to have ever thought that he could feel safe under the protection of a parent or any adult. He feels “more alone than he had ever been before.” When the man stops speaking, Dumbledore’s body spontaneously bursts into flames, vanishes, and is replaced by a white marble tomb.
Harry’s gradual loss of faith in the ability of adults to protect him culminates in this moment, in which he reframes his life as a series of defeats, each of which demonstrates his own vulnerability. For Harry, growing up doesn’t mean joining the ranks of adults but distancing himself from them. It’s interesting that he experiences this lonely epiphany within Hogwarts, the place that gave him friendship and community.
While Hermione is still crying and Ron looks to be on the verge of tears, Ginny is wearing the same “blazing look” Harry remembers from the moment he first kissed her. Bracing himself, Harry tells Ginny that they can no longer be together; he has to fight Voldemort alone, and the Dark wizard might hurt Ginny in order to get to him.
Even though he’s grown significantly throughout the novel, Harry still considers his love for Ginny a weakness and sees her as requiring protections. In contrast, her “blazing look” suggests she understands that love persists, no matter the political circumstances.
Ginny says that she doesn’t care about this possibility, and ruefully reflects that she’s always hoped to be with him. Even when she thought it would never happen, Hermione advised her to date other people so she could feel more relaxed around Harry. Harry says that he should have asked her out sooner so they could have more time together. Almost laughing, Ginny says she wouldn’t like him so much if he wasn’t determined to hunt down Voldemort.
While Harry is usually embarrassed to talk about his feelings, Ginny does so with candor, showing her superior emotional maturity. Even though Harry claims he’s acting in her best interest, it’s clear that she’s thought things out more than he has.
Seeing Ron stroking Hermione’s hair while she cries, Harry gets up and walks away. To his displeasure, Scrimgeour soon flags him down. Harry brusquely cuts off his condolences, asking what he wants; Scrimgeour demands to know what Dumbledore and Harry were doing the night of his death, and Harry refuses to tell. Scrimgeour reiterates his request that Harry ally himself with the Ministry, but Harry just asks if they’ve released Stan Shunpike yet, causing Scrimgeour to turn purple. Again, Harry affirms that he’s “Dumbledore’s man through and through.”
While Harry and Ginny are parting, Ron and Hermione are closer than ever – their physical gestures not only foreshadow a future romance but signal the strength of their friendship as a trio. Meanwhile, Harry’s reference to Stan Shunpike reiterates the Ministry’s incompetence and irresponsibility in handling Voldemort – flaws which are even more frightening now that Dumbledore is dead and unable to lead the fight on his own.
As Scrimgeour stalks off, Ron and Hermione hurry towards Harry. Ron is begging Hermione to let him punch Percy, and she almost laughs as she refuses. Looking up at the castle, Hermione reflects sadly that it might not even be open next year. Harry says that even if it doesn’t close, he’s not returning: he has to find the rest of the Horcruxes and fight Voldemort, just as Dumbledore wanted.
Harry’s life – and the structure of the novels – have always been defined by going to Hogwarts. Deciding to leave school forever marks a true departure from previous eras and the concrete beginning of the trio’s adulthood.
After a moment of silence, Ron says quietly that he and Hermione will accompany him. Harry is startled, not having expected them to risk themselves, but Hermione says that they know what they’re doing and will be with him whatever happens.
Ron’s immediate show of support is a touching affirmation of the friendship that has always sustained Harry, and on which he will rely even after his confidence in institutions and governments fails.
Ron points out that before they set off they have to return to the Burrow once more, for Bill and Fleur’s wedding. Harry concurs. It seems almost incomprehensible that weddings can occur in this new world. Still, even though he dreads the “dark and twisting path” and final fight with Voldemort that lies ahead, it raises his spirits to know that there’s still “one last golden day of peace left to enjoy with Ron and Hermione.”
Even though Voldemort seems more powerful than ever, the one thing that can push him from Harry’s mind is the security he derives from his friendships and his familial connection with the Weasleys. The traits that most differentiate Harry from Voldemort are also those that will enable him to face down the villain in the final installment of the series.