The freezing spell cast over Harry is broken, and he rushes down the stairs after Snape and Draco. Harry runs, dodging curses and bodies and hexing Amycus, who is trying to kill Ginny. Harry sees Ron, Professor McGonagall, and Lupin each battling a Death Eater. Harry sprints past his confused schoolmates toward Snape, Draco, and a large blond Death Eater. Harry sees Hagrid emerge from his cabin and attempt to stop the Death Eaters from fleeing the grounds. Harry is struck from behind by a curse and waits on the ground for his attackers to near. Harry strikes back, knocking them both down, then keeps running. Hagrid is fighting the blond Death Eater, and Snape and Draco are rushing toward the gates, where they will be able to Disapparate. Harry aims at Snape and misses. The blond Death Eater sets Hagrid’s house on fire. Snape tells Draco to keep running and turns to face Harry. Snape does not fight back, and Harry screams at him, calling him a coward. Harry is suddenly hit and falls over. He hears Snape’s voice shouting “No!” and telling Harry’s attacker that Harry is to be saved for the Dark Lord.
Harry no longer cares whether he lives or dies and staggers toward Snape, but Snape dodges his curses once more. Harry attempts a Levicorpus curse, but Snape deflects him. On the ground again, Snape moves toward Harry, crouching over his fallen body. Snape tells Harry that he, Snape, is the Half-Blood Prince, and that Harry should not use his own spells on him, as Harry’s father did. Harry dares Snape to kill him and calls him a coward once more. Snape stuns Harry and runs toward the gates, where he and Draco Disapparate. Harry struggles to sit up and yells for Hagrid. Hagrid rushes over and scoops Harry into his arms. Together, they use the Aquamenti spell to put out the fire in Hagrid’s house. Harry tells Hagrid that Snape killed Dumbledore. Hagrid does not believe Harry and leads him back to Hogwarts, where the students are assembling on the lawn, still unsure what has happened.
Hagrid spots the Dark Mark over the Astronomy Tower and notices a body lying in the grass—Dumbledore. Harry is silent as he straightens Dumbledore’s spectacles and wipes away the trickle of blood coming from his mouth. A crowd gathers behind Harry. Harry spots the locket they took from the cave, which has fallen from Dumbledore’s pocket, and he picks it up. The locket is not as large as Slytherin’s, nor does it bear his mark. When Harry opens it, he finds a small piece of parchment with a note written to Voldemort. The note’s author, who signs his or her name “R. A. B.,” tells Voldemort that he has discovered his secret, stolen the Horcrux, and intends to destroy it as soon as he can. The author tells Voldemort that he or she hopes that when Voldemort meets his match, he will simply be a mortal man. Harry does not understand the message, nor does he care. Harry only knows that whoever stole the real Horcrux contributed to Dumbledore’s death, causing him to weaken himself by drinking a horrible potion for nothing.
The freezing spell Dumbledore cast on Harry is broken when Dumbledore is killed, and Harry bursts into action immediately, doing his best to control the situation and prevent it from getting any worse. Once the reality of Dumbledore’s death seeps in, Harry stops caring whether he lives or dies, acting as if he has absolutely nothing left to lose. Now, Harry can think of nothing except stopping Snape and Draco and avenging the death of his beloved headmaster. He takes off after the pair without stopping to think about anything else. When Harry finally catches up with Snape, he does his best to cast a killing spell, but Snape consistently blocks his attempts. It almost seems as if Snape does not want Harry to become a murderer, just as Dumbledore did not wish for Draco to become a murderer. Snape never tries to kill Harry, even though he is given ample opportunity to do so. Instead, he continues blocking Harry’s spells and refuses to fight back.
Similarly, when another Death Eater attempts to strike Harry, Snape screams, “No,” and tells the attacker that Harry should be saved for Voldemort. Essentially, Snape saves Harry’s life. Moments later, when a Death Eater sets Hagrid’s house on fire, Harry’s sense of devastation grows even deeper. He cannot imagine also losing Hagrid, having lost Dumbledore just minutes earlier. At this point, Harry still does not know whether Ron and Hermione are safe and fears that every single person important to him is being taken away by Voldemort’s minions. In many ways, Harry hits rock bottom in Chapter 28, no longer appearing to care about the repercussions of his actions, thinking only about killing Snape and Draco Malfoy or, at the very least, preventing them from escaping. Hagrid refuses to believe that Dumbledore is dead, and it becomes clear that it is nearly impossible for anyone to imagine Hogwarts without its dear headmaster, Dumbledore.
When Harry finally retrieves the locket, he discovers that it is not, in fact, a Horcrux. Someone named R. A. B. has already retrieved the Horcrux and replaced it with a decoy, presumably working under the same motivation as Harry and Dumbledore. Although Harry reads the note, he does not seem to fully understand what it says and refuses to acknowledge that R. A. B. admits to destroying the Horcrux. All Harry can think about is how Dumbledore has sacrificed his own life for a fake locket, and that news is too troubling to bear. However, the note refers to both the destruction of the locket and Harry. When R.A.B speaks of Voldemort one day meeting his match, and being mortal when they face each other, it is clear that he or she is referring to Harry and hoping to help Harry in his quest to destroy Voldemort forever. Regardless, Harry is too distraught to bother thinking about the contents of the note, and all but ignores its sentiments.