Hermione reminds Harry that this book is by Rita Skeeter, a writer whom Harry knows from personal experience to be a malicious liar and fabricator, but Harry’s faith in Dumbledore is badly shaken. Hermione argues that Dumbledore was young at the time he wrote the letter, and that his whole life contradicts the sentiments expressed in it, but Harry is unconsoled, realizing that he is now as old as Dumbledore was then, and is already risking his life trying to defeat Dark wizards. Finally, Hermione tries to reassure Harry that Dumbledore loved him, but while Harry wishes he could believe her, he doesn’t.
One cold night, when Harry and Hermione are camped in a snow-covered forest with Harry keeping watch, a silver doe, glimmering like moonlight, appears noiselessly before Harry and walks slowly away. Harry follows it, overcome by an instinct that tells him this is not Dark magic or a trap. After leading him into the forest, the doe disappears, and Harry finds that he’s now standing near a frozen pool. On shining a light from his wand at the pool, he sees that the Sword of Gryffindor lies at the bottom, under the ice.
Harry recalls that only true Gryffindors can retrieve the sword, and that Gryffindors are defined by daring, nerve, and chivalry. Accordingly, he strips off his clothes, breaks the ice, and plunges into the cold water. As soon as he is underwater, the Horcrux around his neck begins to choke him, and he blacks out. He wakes up beside the pool, having been pulled out by Ron Weasley, who has retrieved the sword from the pool and cut the Horcrux off of Harry’s neck. Ron tells Harry that he wants to return to the quest—if Harry will have him.
Harry tells Ron that as the retriever of the sword, Ron must be the one to use it to destroy the locket Horcrux. Harry has a sudden flash of insight that the way to open the locket must be to tell it to open in Parseltongue, the language of snakes, which Harry knows how to speak. Harry warns Ron to stab the locket quickly, before it can try to kill him, then he opens the locket.
The locket speaks to Ron, playing on his deepest fears, telling him that he’s the least loved of his mother’s children, that he will always be overshadowed by Harry, and that Hermione prefers Harry over him. Two bubbles rise up from the locket, looking like the heads of Harry and Hermione, and they taunt Ron, telling him how they laughed at his stupidity, cowardice, and most of all his presumption in thinking he could attract Hermione while Harry was in the picture. The two heads meet and kiss each other.
Ron brings the sword down and destroys the locket. Harry, having seen Ron’s fears manifested plainly, assures Ron that there’s nothing between Harry and Hermione. Ron apologizes for leaving, and they embrace.