Returning to Hogsmeade, Harry and Dumbledore see Lord Voldemort's Dark Mark hovering over Hogwarts. They fly to the Astronomy Tower on borrowed broomsticks and are ambushed by Draco Malfoy. Dumbledore paralyses Harry, who is under his Invisibility Cloak, just before Draco disarms Dumbledore. Draco admits he was behind the school attacks and has helped Death Eaters secretly enter Hogwarts via the pair of Vanishing Cabinets, although Dumbledore discerns that Voldemort has coerced the obviously frightened boy.
As members of the Order and the few from the DA battle Voldemort's followers in the castle below, Death Eaters appear in the tower and urge Draco to fulfil his mission—killing Dumbledore—but Draco hesitates. Snape arrives and a weakened Dumbledore entreats him with an ambiguous plea; Snape casts Avada Kedavra which hits Dumbledore squarely in the chest. The impact hurls his body over the tower wall. Upon Dumbledore's death, Harry is released from the paralysing spell. Harry pursues Snape and Malfoy as their only way of escape would be to disapparate outside the boundaries of Hogwarts. Malfoy escapes as Snape duels Harry. During the duel, Snape reveals that he is the Half-Blood Prince. Though instructive, the duel was ended by Buckbeak's intervention. Snape disapparates and escapes. Harry recovers the locket from Dumbledore's body, only to discover it is a fake. Inside is a note from someone with the initials R. A. B. who has stolen the real Horcrux.
The school year ends abruptly with Dumbledore's funeral. Professor McGonagall is appointed Hogwarts's interim headmistress and Professor Slughorn replaces Snape as the head of Slytherin House. Hogwarts is rumoured to close down due to the murder of Dumbledore. Harry decides to leave school in search for the remaining Horcruxes. Ron and Hermione vow to accompany him, while Harry ends his relationship with Ginny to protect her from Voldemort. The book concludes as Harry looks forward to Bill and Fleur's wedding and being comforted that "...there was still one last golden day of peace left to enjoy with Ron and Hermione."



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