By Ethan Alter, Yahoo Entertainment
Warning: This post contains big spoilers for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Albus Dumbledore lives again in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the second instalment in the Harry Potter prequel series set within J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. Now played as a strapping younger wizard by Jude Law, the future headmaster of Hogwarts is still just the school’s Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor at the time Grindelwald begins in 1927.
But he’s got an intimate connection to the titular villain, played by Johnny Depp, that finally canonises an important piece of character backstory that was only ever in the margins of the previous Potter films and novels. In 2007, after the publication of the seventh and final novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Rowling publicly disclosed that Dumbledore was gay and specifically singled out Gellert Grindelwald as the object of his affection. “I would have told you earlier if I knew it would make you so happy,” she remarked at the time.
Fans will be happy to know that the Dumbledore-Grindelwald love connection is a plot point in The Crimes of Grindelwald, which Rowling wrote. The movie opens with the dark wizard’s escape from his captors at the Magical Congress of the United States of America, and his flight to Paris in pursuit of Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), the Osbscurus-possessing orphan from the previous film.
With the manhunt in full swing, representatives from the British Ministry of Magic turn up at Hogwarts to persuade Dumbledore to go wand-to-wand with his equal. “You and Grindelwald were as close as brothers,” one of the flunkies says. “We were closer than brothers,” Dumbledore replies meaningfully, as ghostly images of his teenage self and the teenage Grindelwald float above their heads.
If you’re hoping for a more overt sign of romance — like, say, a kiss — you may have to wait until the next Fantastic Beasts. Depp and Law only share a fleeting moment together in this film, when Dumbledore peers into the Mirror of Erised (which Harry Potter would find decades later in Harry Potter and the Philosopher‘s Stone) and sees the image of his heart’s desire.
Their teenage selves are similarly chaste, although they do engage in one important bit of fluid-swapping. While they were at Hogwarts together, the lovers made a blood pact ensuring that they would never fight one another. The pact takes on physical form in the shape of a vial that Grindelwald has on his person, and its existence prevents Dumbledore from challenging his friend-turned-foe in magical combat… even if he wanted to.
The final moments of The Crimes of Grindelwald may render that blood pact null and void courtesy of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). In the film’s climax, Newt infiltrates a Grindelwald-organised rally, where the wizard reveals his Magneto-like master plan: calling for the magical world to assert supremacy over the Muggle world as the latter marches to the World War II. (Grindelwald even conjures an image of a ballooning atomic mushroom cloud hinting at the dark future that’s in store for Mugglekind.)
His argument is persuasive enough to win over poor, lost Credence and, more surprisingly, Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), who is furious that the magical powers that be prevent her from marrying the No-Maj she adores, Jacob (Dan Fogler). Grindelwald evades capture once again by unleashing a potentially Paris-destroying dragon, but not before Newt’s Niffler — one of his more fantastically adorable fantastic beasts — nabs the blood-pact vial while his owner battles the fire-breathing beast.
Scamander then brings that vial to Dumbledore, who says he may be able to find a way to break its power. (We already know he’s successful; Dumbledore’s 1945 duel with Grindelwald is enshrined in Wizarding World lore as one of the all-time great wizard battles.)
But he’s not just going to have ol’ Gellert to worry about in the third film. See, the reason why Grindelwald was so interested in recruiting Credence to his side is because he knows the boy’s true identity: Aurelius Dumbledore, Albus’s long-lost brother. In an all-new piece of mythology that Rowling unveils in this film, it’s revealed that Aurelius was switched at infancy with a baby from another illustrious magical family, the Lestrange clan, who become disciples of Voldemort later on.
The great love of Newt’s life, Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz) fills us in on the whole sad backstory before her own untimely death at the hands of Grindelwald. As a child, she was sent away to America with her half-brother, Corvus, as part of her father’s plan to hide his just-born son. While crossing the Atlantic Ocean, Leta grew frustrated with the baby’s ceaseless cries and placed him in another infant’s cot, and taking the other child with her instead. That same night, all the passengers had to flee the ship, and she watched as the lifeboat carrying her brother capsized, tossing Corvus into the deep. The surviving child was Aurelius — though he grew up unaware of his real identity and family lineage.
So far, the introduction of another Dumbledore sibling is drawing a mixed response online, where serious Potter fans are already devising theories for how Aurelius can possibly fit into existing continuity. On the other hand, his presence heightens the already-substantial personal stakes for Albus, and providing more material for what’s intended to be a five-film series. Before the Fantastic Beasts franchise is over, Dumbledore will have to confront the two most important men in his life: the man he loves and the brother he never knew.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is in cinemas now