The following was written by guest writer Dawn Pink, whose Potter knowledge knows no bounds.
Enter stranger, but take heed
Of what awaits you who read.
For those who take but do not earn
Would pay most dearly to unlearn
If you seek within the spoilers
A treasure that was never yours
Reader, you’ve been warned, beware
Of finding more than spoilers there.
With the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, fans of the Wizarding World have every reason to believe J.K. Rowling is up to her old tricks again. With a slew of unanswered questions left over about the future four Fantastic Beasts films, she has also (in this fan’s opinion) clarified a few murky areas left over from the Harry Potter series. By taking what we know and lining it up against the blank areas Rowling has left for herself, we can somewhat see a possible path this new franchise is taking.
So it’s Useless?
What on earth would you use it for?
Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore was born in 1881 to Percival and Kendra. The oldest of three, Aberforth Dumbledore was the closest to him in age, born three years later, followed by Ariana the year after. The family lived in Mould-on-the-Wold and, by all accounts, lived the comfortable life of an averagely happy family.
Shortly after Ariana’s sixth birthday, is where Fantastic Beasts starts polishing the glass. Ariana was attacked by three muggle boys:
“When my sister was six years old, she was attacked, by three Muggle boys. They’d seen her practicing magic, spying through the back garden hedge: She was a kid, she couldn’t control it, no witch or wizard can at that age. What they saw, scared them, I expect. They forced their way through the hedge, and when she couldn’t show them the trick, they got a bit carried away trying to stop the little freak doing it.”
Fantastic Beasts explores in heartbreaking detail what happens to magical children who are, in someway, dissuaded from using their powers. As we discuss Dumbledore’s past, we need to remember Credence Barebone; keep his story in the back of your mind.
After this incident, Kendra was forced to move her children to Godric’s Hollow, a wizard village, due to the loss of her husband and their good name:
“…my father went after the bastards that did it, and attacked them. And they locked him up in Azkaban for it.”
Percival died in prison. In 1892, Albus was sorted into Gryffindor and rose quickly, not only to the top of his class, but to a respected position in the wizarding world. Before graduating, he was already in contact with some of the greatest minds of the time, including Nicholas Flamel and Bathilda Bagshot. In 1897, Newton Artemis Fido Scamander was born. During this time, Kendra was home, desperately trying to care for her deeply damaged daughter.
“It destroyed her, what they did: She was never right again. She wouldn’t use magic, but she couldn’t get rid of it; it turned inward and drove her mad, it exploded out of her when she couldn’t control it, and at times she was strange and dangerous. But mostly she was sweet and scared and harmless.”
With the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, we met Credence, an Obscurial. He swallowed his magic because his adopted mother was a Second Salemer. Ariana refused to use hers after being emotionally scarred from an attack. Both resulted in the same consequences, only we didn’t have a name for it upon the release of Deathly Hallows.
Shortly after graduating, before he went on holiday with his school friend, Albus was forced to return permanently to Godric’s Hallow following the death of his mother. Aberforth claims a major reason Ariana’s obscurus proved fatal was because of his absence, as he could often calm her, being her favorite of the siblings.
“She had one of her rages, and my mother wasn’t as young as she was, and … it was an accident. Ariana couldn’t control it. But my mother was killed.”
That summer, Gellert Grindelwald, already obsessed with the myth of the Deathly Hallows, moves to Godric’s Hollow to pursue the Peverell Brothers. Feeling lonely, forgotten and, most likely, bored, Albus quickly became friends with Gellert, who has been described as Albus’ “dark twin”. Both incredibly clever, witty and power hungry, it is no surprise 17 year old Albus fell in love with Gellert within the two months their relationship lasted.
Often I have found people assume one of two things about this relationship: One, that Albus kept his love sucessfully a secret. Two, that perhaps the reason Gellert fled Godric’s Hollow was due to Albus confessing his love. I believe Fantastic Beasts puts both of these ideas to rest.
Back to Credence.
While it took me the second viewing to catch the sexual tension between Grindelwald-as-Graves and Credence, the script makes it blatant.
“Graves gently, almost seductively, moves his thumb across the cuts, healing them instantly.”
“Graves pulls Credence into a hug, which, with his hand on Credence’s neck, seems more controlling than affectionate… Graves slowly backs away, stroking Credence’s neck. Credence keeps his eyes closed, longing for the human contact to continue.”
While the circumstances are vastly different, throughout his interactions with Credence, Gellert shows us how he uses love, affection, and a bit of seduction to manipulate people into his control. Gellert knew Albus was in love with him, knew he felt isolated, and manipulated those emotions, not only to win a powerful, influential ally, but to get closer to the newest factor in his plan to expose wizarding kind.
Gellert and Albus made big plans to tour the Wizarding World with their Greater Good Campaign, and, the same way we see him manipulate Credence into helping him, he convinced Albus it would be a good idea to bring Ariana along with them. If the wizarding world didn’t live in secret, Ariana wouldn’t have to hide anymore.
Aberforth, charmed by neither Gellert nor Albus, said absolutely not.
“Grindelwald didn’t like that at all. He got angry. He told me what a stupid little boy I was, trying to stand in the way of him and my brilliant brother…:
“And there was an argument… and I pulled out my wand, and he pulled out his, and I had the Cruciatus Curse used on me by my brother’s best friend- and Albus was trying to stop him, and then all three of us were dueling, and the flashing lights and the bangs set her off, she couldn’t stand it-”
Three dueling wizards, two considered the most powerful of their time, and a panicked, raging obscurus trapped in a house. True, as Credence was older than Ariana, her obscurus probably wasn’t quite as powerful. But, Newt tells us they don’t usually live past ten, and at this time Ariana was fourteen. It isn’t that much of a surprise when Albus tells us he was never sure who’s spell killed his sister. But, by the end of the confrontation, he has seen Gellert’s true colors. The man he loved and thought might love him back (and let’s remember, this is 1899) had used him. And as Grindelwald tells Credence he is nothing but a squib as soon as he thinks he’s done with him, he left Godric’s Hallow when it too was used up, leaving behind a broken, changed Albus.
By 1908, Dumbledore is teaching at Hogwarts and meets a bright young Hufflepuff, our darling Newt. Sometime after, Newt is expelled from school, despite Albus arguing strongly against it. Newt spends a few years slowly dying in a ministry desk job, when he is pulled into a larger plot in 1918, commissioned by Augustus Worme to write Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Sometime in 1926, Grindelwald starts attacking Europe; the only location he was in previous to New York, that we know for sure, is Sweden.
Everything after the movie looks like a long line of endless possibilities, doesn’t it?
Nearly Endless Possibilities
How can you be nearly endless?
There is a fair amount of information on what happens in this world post December 1926.
For example, at the end of the month, mere weeks after Newt bids Tina goodbye for now, Tom Riddle will be born.
The next year, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will be published and and Newt will become a household name.
Between 1927 and 1945 (the end of the series) Minerva McGonagall, Rubeus Hagrid and Tom Riddle will all start their Hogwarts education.
But the date that keeps coming back to me is 1940.
Before we get to that, let’s acknowledge, Rowling has a pattern. Anyone on the message boards when the Harry Potter series was coming out knows two things about doing proper guess work with this woman. One, obvious questions have obvious answers or are inconsequential. Two, if you want to figure out where she’s taking you, you need to be asking the weird questions. The deep questions. And you need to remember, there is rarely such thing as coincidence.
For example, it is unlikely a coincidence that in three months, Newt Scamander separated an obscurus from its host in Sudan, which is bordered by Egypt, where he found Frank, who he needed to return to Arizona, by way of New York, where he happens upon another obscurial.
Whether or not Dumbledore is behind the generous offer to write a book, it is easy to imagine Dumbledore tracking Grindelwald across Europe through the news, watching him hunt down obscurials, watching him go after children. And while Dumbledore probably didn’t tell Newt that was the real target, it’s easy to see this man who believed in Newt, who stood up for him, approaching his former student. “Newt…my sister…she was 14.”
How could Newt, ever the Hufflepuff, tell this man he would not help him find a cure? If he could find a way to save these children, to separate the obscurus and study it and keep the host alive? He’s already going to be traveling the world, hopping from one country to another. I can’t imagine it would be any problem at all to our sweet badger protagonist.
And so to France. We know this to be at least one stop in the next movie. Which opens up a couple of doors for Rowling to pursue. I’m sure many of us would like to see Beauxbatons, as long as it isn’t completely full of sighing blonde adolescent girls. Personally, I think the more interesting route would be Nicholas Flamel, the Parisian Alchemist. But, mostly, there’s an obscurial there. So that’s where Dumbledore is sending Newt next.
We also have a few other clues as to where else we may be visiting in the series. Along with information on Ilvermorny, Rowling released the names of Wizarding Schools in Japan, Uganda and Brazil. She also sent out a tweet answer to how many movies will be released: Five. Cinq. Funf. Cinco. Cinque. English, French, German, Spanish, Italian.
We also have a lot of rumors about Leta Lestrange flying around, but nothing really substantial there. Yet.
At the end of Fantastic Beasts, Grindelwald says to Newt “Will we die, just a little?” As this line makes absolutely no sense at all, I assume it was not directed at Newt, but at Albus, and most likely deals with the Hallows.
It is unlikely a coincidence that the next year, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is published by Obscurus Books. Perhaps a warning to Grindelwald: I know what you are after.
Minerva starts school in 1937. I am hoping we get to see teenage McGonagall. The level of sass in that teenager that could be squeezed into a 20 second cameo would warm this old, cynical heart. Up it to thirty, and we should also be able to get an appropriate amount of alliteration.
The other plot Rowling has already tied herself to is the early years of Tom Riddle. He enters Hogwarts in 1938. I do not think Riddle’s entire school career will take place without mention. 1943 was a red letter year for Tom, after all, what with him opening the Chamber of Secrets, then murdering his father and paternal grandparents the following summer. The next year will see the creation of his first horcrux. By the time Gellert is marched to Nurmengard, Tom Riddle is calling himself Voldemort and working for Borgin and Burkes.
The darkest wizard of our time grew up watching Grindelwald pursue power. And, I believe, felt he did it all wrong.
In Deathly Hallows, Albus says “Master of death, Harry, master of Death! Was I better, ultimately, than Voldemort?” Harry eventually replies with “Hallows, not Horcruxes.”
We have glimpsed the beginning of the ways Grindelwald is willing to manipulate people through their emotions. Voldemort never had any use for love. Grindelwald, on the other hand, finds it exceptionally useful, making an obscurial the perfect weapon for Grindelwald. A human being whose emotions can unlock “an unstable, uncontrollable Dark force” in the hands of a master emotional manipulator.
Then, we come to the final confrontation in 1945. Rowling has often tiptoed around the ways muggle history and wizard history interact. All we really know for certain is that they do. We are going to get to see the way it interweaves through the 30s and into World War II. We will see the legendary defeat of Grindelwald and discover how Newt Scamander was involved. And I don’t think it’s going to be the ending we expect.
“Oh, now, I’m glad you mentioned Grindelwald,’ says Skeeter, with a tantalizing smile. ‘I’m afraid those who go dewy-eyed over Dumbledore’s spectacular victory must brace themselves for a bombshell- or perhaps a Dungbomb. Very dirty business indeed. All I’ll say is, don’t be sure that there really was the spectacular duel of legend. After they’ve read my book, people may be forced to conclude that Grindelwald simply conjured a white handkerchief from the end of his wand and came quietly!‘”
Now, Rita Skeeter’s reporting is never reliable, but her alt-facts are usually not far from the truth of the situation.
The final fact she tied herself to is, to me, the most confusing of all.
“Neither Dumbledore nor Grindelwald ever seems to have referred to this brief boyhood friendship later in life. However, there can be no doubt that Dumbledore delayed, for some five years of turmoil, fatalities and disappearances, his attack on Grindelwald.”
What happens in 1940, that publicly forces Dumbledore’s hand? Or, what opportunity is presented to him? Why is he not called upon to act until long after it is clear he is already tracking Grindelwald?
With Rowling, it’s always about asking the right questions.
Why was Newt expelled? What specific circumstances could lead this character to be expelled from school, despite one of the most respected minds of the time arguing strongly against it? What did Leta Lestrange have to do with it? Is it possible she doesn’t deserve the assumptions that come with that name? She was an outcast too, after all.
How aware is Newt of his situation? Has Albus told him everything? Or is he as in the dark about his fate as Harry once was?
A lot is expected from this series. Rowling has set the bar high on herself, both with the Harry Potter books and with this first film. Fans are expecting a lot.
We are hungry for more of Albus Dumbledore. He is a character we grew deeply attached to, but only know as much as Harry ever did. It was easy to empathize with his frustration. More importantly, Dumbledore’s sexuality has only extended so far as to make him a token gay character. I am hoping the echo of the pensive in MACUSA’s Death Potion means we will be seeing some of this relationship in story.
In an interview with Pottercast in 2007, Rowling said,
“Well, to me, it was only relevant inasmuch as Dumbledore, who was the greatest defender of love and who sincerely believed that love was the greatest most powerful force in the universe, was himself made a fool by love. That, to me, was the interesting point. That, in his youth, he was- he became infatuated with a man who was almost his dark twin.”
I want to see the moment he stopped believing in his right to power. I want to see the moment Albus commits to love as the greatest power. The man who sees it as a strength defeating the man who uses it as other’s weakness. To see Albus defeat Grindelwald by loving him. Skeeter’s white flag comment is giving me hope.
It would certainly make sense, with Grindelwald later not giving up Albus to Voldemort when he came for the wand. Harry speculates, perhaps he did not want Voldemort desecrating his grave. It’s still pure speculation, of course.
On the happiest of speculatory notes, it’s foretold in the About the Author of the 52nd edition of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, that Porpentina and Newt do eventually end up with their own version of happily ever after (that includes eventually adding Luna Lovegood to their family). This means Queenie and Jacob eventually move to Dorset where they can legally marry and live next door to Newt and Tina. You can pry that one from my cold dead hands.