Harry wishes he could put Mad-Eye Moody’s death behind him by embarking on his quest to destroy the Horcruxes—the objects into which Voldemort has placed fragments of his soul, making him immortal as long as those objects survive. Harry wants to discuss the quest with Ron and Hermione, who agreed to accompany him in the previous book, but Mrs. Weasley interferes, first by approaching each of them in turn and trying to dissuade them from leaving Hogwarts, then by keeping them busy and apart from each other by having them help her prepare the house for the wedding of Bill Weasley and Fleur. Finally the three friends steal a moment to meet in Ron’s room, and Ron and Hermione reveal the lengths they’ve gone to in preparing for the quest.
Hermione has enchanted her Muggle (non-wizard) parents into changing their names, forgetting that they have a daughter, and moving to Australia so that Voldemort will not be able to find them. Ron has given the household ghoul a pair of his own pajamas and enchanted the ghoul with red hair and pustules, so that when Ron fails to return to Hogwarts, his parents can give out the information that he’s ill with an infectious disease called spattergroit, which would cause him to look somewhat like the enchanted ghoul does. Anyone who checks in on Ron will see the ghoul in his bed, assume that Ron’s really sick, and flee before becoming infected.
Most important, Hermione reveals that she used a spell to steal the books on Horcruxes, which Dumbledore had removed from the library for safekeeping, out of Dumbledore’s office after he died. She explains that Voldemort is unlikely to try to reassemble his own soul by destroying the Horcruxes himself, because doing so requires that the person who made the Horcruxes suffer the pain of remorse for their actions, which seems contrary to Voldemort’s nature. But for Harry and his friends to destroy them will be very difficult, because only very destructive and dangerous items, such as the basilisk’s fang that Harry used to destroy Tom Riddle’s diary (the first of the Horcruxes) in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, can be sure to do the job.
Mr. and Mrs. Delacour, Fleur’s parents, arrive, and Harry feels guilty about the strain that his presence, and the added security, is putting on Mrs. Weasley.
Harry dreams that he’s walking in the mountains looking for a man who holds the answer to a problem that’s bothering him. Ron wakes Harry and tells him that Harry was muttering the name Gregorovitch in his sleep. Harry realizes that he was seeing through Voldemort’s eyes in his dream, as he has done before, and he thinks he recognizes the name Gregorovitch, though he can’t place where he might have heard it.
Harry perks up when he remembers that it’s his seventeenth birthday, and the Trace (a spell with which the Ministry of Magic can track any spell cast by an underage—meaning under seventeen—wizard) is broken, allowing him to practice magic freely. Harry’s friends and Ron’s family give Harry presents. Ginny draws Harry into her room and gives him a passionate kiss, but Ron breaks in angrily and interrupts them, afterward scolding Harry for toying with his sister. Harry promises not to kiss her again.