Chapter Two establishes one of the main conflicts or problems of the book—one that has little to do with the fight against Voldemort. Harry has just lost someone he loved very much: Dumbledore. It’s bad enough that he no longer has Dumbledore’s presence, and can’t enjoy Dumbledore’s friendship or seek his help. What’s worse is that now that Dumbledore is gone, Harry feels doubt about what he actually had with Dumbledore. Clearly, there was much about Dumbledore that Harry never knew. But now those gaps loom large in Harry’s mind, and he wonders if he really knew Dumbledore at all, and if Dumbledore really loved him. Dumbledore might have been lying to him, or manipulating him, or he might not have been the man Harry thought he was. Harry doesn’t want to have these doubts, of course, but he can’t seem to shake them. The riddles and omissions in what Dumbledore told him, and even the obituary written by Dumbledore’s friend, all exacerbate these doubts and make them grow stronger. As Harry embarks on his quest and tries to fight Voldemort, the real struggle in the book will be the internal one, with Harry struggling with himself to trust Dumbledore and accept that Dumbledore loved him. This theme makes the book immeasurably richer, and justifies the presence of the lofty epigraphs that preface it.
Chapter Three brings us a familiar sight: the annual parting of ways with the Dursleys. Every book in the series has started in the summertime at the Dursleys’ house, with the Dursleys being the first problem to be overcome. This repeated structure is a literary device that not only establishes continuity across the series, but also allows us to mark how much the characters have changed from year to year, giving the series a greater sense of depth. But this time, all of the usual situations are reversed. Instead of Harry leaving, and the Dursleys keeping him from the magical world that they hate, the Dursleys have to flee, kowtowing to the wizarding world and being thrown to the mercy of wizards. The series has always maintained the irony of Harry being important in the secretive magic world but scorned as a waste of space in the Dursleys’ Muggle world, but this time the magical world has subordinated the normal world. Things are out of balance, and the reason is Voldemort’s rise to power. We get no reassuringly familiar spat with Dursleys, followed by Harry’s exit. This time, the Dursleys are the ones who exit first, their normal lives as they know them over.