Warning! This article contains spoilers for Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore‘s opening scene had Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) emphasize the tragedy of Albus Dumbledore’s (Jude Law) character in Harry Potter. Fantastic Beasts 3 deals with the conflict between Dumbledore and Grindelwald 70 years before Harry attends Hogwarts. But the movie also reveals events from even before the turn of the 20th century – namely, Aberforth (Richard Coyle) fathering Credence (Ezra Miller), and, most importantly, Albus’ relationship with Grindelwald.
Grindelwald came to Godric’s Hollow in 1899, on a quest to find the Deathly Hallows – something Albus had desired himself. They formed an intense, passionate relationship, united by their desire to achieve greatness and start a wizarding revolution, where wizards would overpower Muggles “for the greater good” (an expression coined by Dumbledore in a letter to his former lover). But soon enough, Dumbledore realized Grindelwald’s vision was far more extremist than his, and a fight between Albus, Aberforth, and Grindelwald led to Ariana’s death and the dark wizard fleeing from the Hollow. Three decades later, Dumbledore meets Grindelwald in a Muggle brasserie to discuss their past feelings, the blood pact, and the current motivations in their war against each other.
Instead of saying hello, Grindelwald greets Dumbledore with a question: “Is this one of your regular haunts?” To which Dumbledore replies something the dark wizard expects: “I have no regular haunts.” While this might seem like an innocent joke on Grindelwald’s behalf, it’s only meant to hurt Albus. He basically asks him if the cafe is one of the places he brings other people on dates, but he wants to hear what he already knows: that Albus never had another romantic relationship after him. This makes Dumbledore’s character in Harry Potter all the more tragic – one of the greatest wizards of all time only got to love one of the darkest wizards in history. Throughout the Harry Potter series, Dumbledore evokes the power of love many times, and all of these moments are made darker and sadder by Grindelwald’s hurtful remark.
During the Harry Potter movies, Dumbledore reminds Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) that his mother’s love is what protected him from Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) back in 1981. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore also reminds Harry that love is his own very powerful tool when he says, “You are protected, in short, by your ability to love” – something Voldemort doesn’t have. In The Deathly Hallows, Harry meets Dumbledore in a purgatory-like version of King’s Cross, and the great wizard delivers a line with great meaning: “Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love.” Yet this line is given dark undertones by Mads Mikkelsen‘s Grindelwald.
Of course, Albus Dumbledore had a lot of people caring for him and supporting him (from Newt’s team in Fantastic Beasts to Dumbledore’s Army in Harry Potter), but the fact that he (most likely) never loved again after Grindelwald shows the true tragedy of Dumbledore’s character. The Hogwarts headmaster was a true guide to Harry and many others, and the reason for that is not just his incredible magical power, but his awareness of love’s value. When Grindelwald forces Dumbledore to remember “he has no regular haunts” in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, he is giving the powerful wizard a sad underlying story that Harry Potter viewers can no longer ignore.
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