Further reflections spurred by reading The Life and Lies of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore by Irvin Khaytman.
The Order of the Phoenix chapter of Irvin Khaytman’s Dumbledore book is the one that opened my eyes the most. Even though the clues had always been there, and there had even been explicit pointers to the clues, I had never thought to put everything together to realize that Dumbledore spent the rest of his life hunting Horcruxes, from the end of Goblet of Fire until the day he died.
Foreshadowing, from the second chapter of Goblet of Fire: “Harry had no idea where Dumbledore went during the summer holidays. He amused himself for a moment, picturing Dumbledore, with his long silver beard, full-length wizard’s robes, and pointed hat, stretched out on a beach somewhere, rubbing suntan lotion onto his crooked nose.”
Clue, as Irvin points out, from the moment in OotP when Dumbledore claims responsibility for Dumbledore’s Army and leaves the school: “‘Oh no,’ said Dumbledore, with a grim smile, ‘I am not leaving to go into hiding.'”
Clue, from the “Silver and Opals” chapter of Half-Blood Prince: “Where was Dumbledore, and what was he doing? Harry caught sight of the headmaster only twice over the next few weeks. He rarely appeared at meals anymore, and Harry was sure Hermione was right in thinking that he was leaving the school for days at a time.”
In his OotP chapter, Irvin goes over the timeline of what Dumbledore figured out about the Horcruxes and when, what questions he had, and how he sought answers. He is right. This was fully occupying Dumbledore’s mind behind the scenes of OotP — and OotP has the most complex simultaneous, interwoven scenes of any of the books.
There are many points in this chapter where Irvin’s reading and mine diverge. For example, he believes that the prophecy means that Harry and Voldemort will have to kill each other, so Dumbledore is training Harry to be a “Voldemort slayer”; I believe Dumbledore interpreted the prophecy to mean only that Voldemort would have to kill Harry, not the other way around, but he chose not to enlighten Harry about that specific interpretation when Harry said, at the end of the “Horcruxes” chapter of HBP, “That one of us is going to end up killing the other.” Irvin believes that Snape was taunting Harry in his customary self-indulgent, immature manner during the Occlumency lessons, whereas I think Snape was too tense to do so, conducting the lessons in a mindset of grim, businesslike fear, mindful that Voldemort was eavesdropping on his performance through Harry’s scar.
However, any differences in reading are minor compared to the great gift that this chapter gave me: the clear recognition of Dumbledore’s steady Horcrux hunt for the last two years of his life. Irvin’s book paid for itself with that point alone.