CAUTION: I solemnly swear that I am up to spoilers here.
The Muggle world has been split asunder by none other than their leader herself, J.K. Rowling.
The cliffhanger she dropped on the collective Potterverse at the end of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is exactly the kind of love-it-or-hate-it move that sends uberfans into tizzies either giddy or furious , plummeting social media threads into toxic, circular debate spirals.
Some gasped with excitement at the Grindelwald reveal, while others cried “RETCON!” in a Rage That Shall Not Be Named.
But Rowling knew exactly what she was doing. I mean, of course she did.
Not only is she smart enough to have a sense of what a big canonical nuke will do to the fandom, but she actually planted a seed to substantiate the “rewrite” of this particular family tree.
Here come the spoilers.
At the end of Fantastic Beasts 2, Gellert Grindelwald reveals to Credence his true name and identity: Aurelius Dumbledore. Yep, Albus has another brother, not just the brother and sister we learned about in the original Harry Potter stories, and it’s Credence Barebone.
The fans who have a problem with that twist see it as rewriting existing canon, feeling it is a convenient — a.k.a. cheap — shot to contrive drama and intrigue, but in the process it creates canonical inconsistencies. It’s annoying to them because, from their perspective, it essentially invalidates canon if you can mess with it however you like, so what’s the point of having a canon in the first place? All of a sudden it’s just a free-for-all.
To me, this news of an unknown brother doesn’t fall into that category. It’s simply an addition of knowledge, not a rewriting of anything. It doesn’t invalidate anything from the canon we know, and nothing has become inconsistent. It simply expands the Potter mythology in intriguing ways.
Also, I don’t expect it to be a lie on the part of Grindelwald. He’s telling the truth. Rowling wouldn’t base an actual cliffhanger on a “Psych!” moment. She might use a lie during a story as part of a single-movie arc, and then reveal that lie to be a lie by the end of that arc, but she wouldn’t have fans theorize, wonder, and debate about a cliffhanger for two years or more only to pull the rug out from under them down the road. She’s not stupid.
Okay, some of you are still skeptical and cynical about this whole situation. Even if it’s real and it won’t create inconsistencies, you ask, then how can Rowling explain the fact that this brother always existed without turning Dumbledore into a complete liar?
Well, two ways.
One, old Dumbledore was always a very secretive person to begin with, especially when it came to his own personal history. It’s not inconsistent that there’d be information he never divulged, especially as it was never relevant to any matters at hand.
But secondly, and more importantly, Rowling gives us a clue in The Crimes of Grindelwald as to why Albus may never have told anyone:
Because it would be rooted in a deep shame for Albus.
Not a shame toward his brother but, rather, a shame for what he failed to do for Aurelius, something that only Albus could do.
Before we dissect a key line spoken by young Dumbledore, first, it’s important to define (or remind you of) the term “Obscurus”:
An Obscurus is the manifestation of the repressed energy of a magical child (known as an Obscurial). Described as a “dark” and “parasitic” force, an Obscurus is created when the child in question consciously attempts to repress their talent or is forced to do so through physical or psychological abuse. This energy can manifest itself as a separate entity that can erupt in violent, destructive fury.
And now the key line.
Early in the second Fantastic Beasts film, young Dumbledore meets with Newt Scamander, tasking him to find Credence and save him from Grindelwald. (I think it’s safe to assume that at this time, given Credence’s orphaned history, Albus doesn’t even know that he has a second brother.)
In that trolly car conversation, Albus says the following to Newt about Credence:
“I know this: an Obscurus grows in the absence of love as a dark twin, an only friend. If Credence has a real brother or sister out there who can take its place, he might yet be saved.”
In true sleight of hand distraction, Rowling guides us as viewers to tuck that information away in this context: Leta Lestrange will be that sibling. By the time we learn that she isn’t (about 2/3 of the way through) and then become distracted by the whole final act before the shocking Aurelius reveal, we’ve essentially forgotten to think back to that line.
But, given what we learn in that reveal, Dumbledore’s early line to Newt ends up telling us the most important thing we need to know and take away from The Crimes of Grindelwald:
Albus can be the one to take the place of the Obscurus and save Aurelius.
And yet, from what we can glean from the Harry Potter stories, Aurelius was never saved.
Therein lies the key to why we’ve never heard about Aurelius until now: at some point in the next three Fantastic Beasts films, there will come a time, a moment, when Albus will have the chance to save Aurelius…and he won’t.
It may prove impossible. It may be the result of a failed strategy. It may be fear of what would be required that stops Albus. It may even come to a showdown, or some kind of Sophie’s Choice, where Albus feels that his only option is to destroy Aurelius. Or, perhaps worst of all, it may be a consequence of Albus’s blood oath with (and/or lingering affection for) Gellert Grindelwald.
We won’t know until it happens.
But when it does, I’m betting it will cause a deep, unhealable shame in Albus, one he will carry for the rest of his life. A shame so deep that he’ll never be able to speak of it to anyone ever again.
And it will end up being one of the most heartbreaking moments in the history of the entire Harry Potter mythos.