Chapter 2: In Memorium
Things got off with a horrifying start in that first chapter, and so now it is time to check in with Our Hero. The very first line of chapter 2 is : 'Harry was bleeding.' In this case, it's meant literally: he's cut his hand on the only remaining fragment of the enchanted mirror that Sirius gave him and which he shattered in grief and anger at the end of OotP. However, it seems to me that Harry is going to be bleeding in one way or another for the whole of the book, so that may be why JKR thought this an appropriate beginning for the POV we'll be staying with for the rest of the story.
But right now, he is getting ready to leave his Aunt and Uncle's house for the last time to go on his quest to find and destroy Voldemort's horcruxes, and he is sorting through his school trunk to take with him those few things he feels he might need. So what does he take? Mostly things you'd expect: his wand of course, his Invisibility cloak, the Marauder's Map, the false horcrux, Muggle clothes, his precious photo album. But there are a few things you wouldn't: a few textbooks (Harry? Even though Hermione will be bringing a whole library with her?), his potions kit (again, with Hermione coming, you know she'll be bringing half the apothecary shop with her), some unspecified letters and a newspaper or two.
Ah, the newspapers . . . one of JKR's favorite devices for revealing important info in a misleading sort of way is already being pressed into service. And just what are we supposed to be paying attention to here? There's one issue of the Daily Prophet in particular that Harry is looking for, the one with the notice on the front page that Charity Burbage has resigned(!) from Hogwarts. But that's not the reason he wants it. It's because Elphias Doge's obituary of Albus Dumbledore is in that same paper.
We all know Doge as an original member of the Order of the Phoenix who came along with Moody, Tonks and Shacklebolt to take Harry to 12 Grimauld Place at the beginning of OotP. What we didn't know was that Doge was a childhood friend of Dumbledore's from Hogwarts who remained a friend his whole life. His obituary gives us Dumbledore as we'd all like to believe him to have been: a brilliant man who was trusting, kind and gentle; a caring son and loving brother who had no ambitions beyond being the best teacher and headmaster he could be; a hero who took up his wand against grave threats to the wizarding world for no reason other than principle and duty; whose public service, though pressed upon him, was of outstanding integrity; a humble, humane soul who saw value in everyone. Doge *did*, in the course of extolling the virtues of Saint Albus, drop the bombshell that his father had died in Azkaban for 'savagely' attacking three Muggle boys (no reason is given, so we are left to assume that it's for the usual irrational pureblood reasons, and that Albus did not ever share his father's repugnant opinions) and that the death of his sister estranged him from his brother (though we are assured that it wasn't Albus's fault in any way and that they eventually made up).
Harry, of course, would never believe anything less than perfection of his beloved headmaster, but finds most everything in Doge's obituary a surprise. Harry realizes that, in spite of what he might have believed, he'd never really known Dumbledore. It saddens him to think it never occurred to him to ask about the old wizard's life before Harry knew him, beyond what could be found on his Chocolate Frog card. Dumbledore focused himself so unselfishly on Harry (so it seems to him) that there was never the opportunity to ask, except that time in front of the Mirror of Erised where he suspects that Dumbledore's answer might not have been the truth (gasp!). But, other than that one time, Harry is certain that Dumbledore never lied to him, never acted with less than Harry's best interests at heart.
The most recent Daily Prophet contains a very different view of Albus Dumbledore, one we are supposed to assume is a tissue of lies because of its source: that sleazy excuse for a journalist Rita Skeeter (couldn't you just see her working for Rupert Murdoch had she been a Muggle? ::g::). In contrast to the hagiographic obit penned by Doge, Rita's tell-all book paints a rather less than saintly view of the late headmaster. The person interviewing Skeeter gets Rita to drop more than a few tidbits purporting to be the 'truth' about Dumbledore: that he 'dabbled in the Dark Arts' in his youth; that he may have, in fact, once been of his father's opinions concerning Muggles; that his mother and sister might have been engaged in something Dark; that he plagiarized one of his most famous scholarly works; that he may not have been the selfless hero everyone thought he was in Grindlewald's defeat. He doesn't sound at all like the same person Doge was writing about. Of course, in the next breath, she implies Dumbledore was a pedophile and says that she's very close to Harry, two things that we, as insiders, know to be completely untrue. Because of this, we are being invited to believe the all the rest of it carries the same level of truthfulness, that is to say: none at all. She is just savaging Dumbledore's reputation for fun and profit.
It certainly enrages Harry. He wads up the paper and throws it in blind fury against the wall of his room, screaming his opinion of it out his open window, and then throws himself onto his bed, where the bit of mirror bounces and catches his attention. He picks it up, and cuts himself again in surprise as it suddenly flashes blue. Harry convinces himself that this was just a trick of the light, that he only imagined a glimpse of blue eyes because he was thinking of Dumbledore (though why he'd think he'd seen Albus Dumbledore in Sirius Black's mirror is not explained). But doubts about both Dumbledore and the mirror have now been planted in our heads to bear fruit later.