WARNING: This post contains huge spoilers for the Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Proceed with caution.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was a story about Credence Barebone discovering his own power; Crimes of Grindelwald is a story about Credence discovering where he came from. And similarly to Fantastic Beasts, Crimes of Grindelwald ends with a huge identity twist.
Credence’s True Identity
For a new character in the Harry Potter canon, Credence has already managed to tie well-known wizarding families together in surprising ways. First, he was thought to be a lost child by the name of Corvus Lestrange — the last member of an old and revered pure-blood French wizarding family that we know all too well. However, Leta Lestrange revealed in Crimes of Grindelwald that Credence couldn’t be Corvus, her long-lost brother, because, well, she accidentally killed Corvus when he was a baby.
And so it seemed Credence Barebone would never find out his true identity — he would forever be some random baby on a boat. However, after spending the whole movie coaxing Credence into joining his movement, Grindelwald succeeds during the final moments of the great battle in Paris. He needs the boy who, as Grindelwald himself says, is “the only entity alive” who can kill Albus Dumbledore. And after securing Credence’s loyalty, he reveals Credence’s true name: Aurelius Dumbledore. That’s right, Credence is — somehow — a Dumbledore.
Pay Attention to the Obscurus
But how? Well, great question — and right now, it’s super unclear. Grindelwald heavily but unclearly implies that Credence is Dumbledore’s brother. He tells Credence that his “brother” has been trying to stop him, implying that his brother is Albus Dumbledore. However, Aurelius is an entirely new Dumbledore, and it’s hard to imagine how on earth he could even be distantly related to the Dumbledore family — let alone as closely related as a brother. Let’s examine this more closely.
We don’t know much about Credence’s past so far. Currently, his defining characteristic is that he’s one of the oldest known wizards to have survived having an Obscurus — a mysterious and parasitical magic that takes over and feeds on a young person, the Obscurial, when they try to repress their powers — and that he’s most powerful (and unpredictable) in his Obscurial form. Credence hasn’t even learned how to properly channel his magic yet (though Grindelwald does gift him a wand in the closing scene).
The Obscurus might be the closest thing we have to a clue about Credence’s place in the Dumbledore family. Albus Dumbledore’s only confirmed family members are his parents (Percival and Kendra Dumbledore), his aunt (Honoria), and his two siblings (Aberforth and Ariana Dumbledore). We know that Aberforth outlived his brother and fought during the Battle of Hogwarts, but the two were estranged when Albus died. And we can trace their feud back to Albus’ relationship with Gellert Grindelwald.
Dumbledore’s Tragic Past
As a young witch, Ariana Dumbledore was attacked by a group of Muggle boys who observed her using magic. The trauma altered Ariana irreparably and made her magic unstable and unpredictable (much like, though never technically categorized as, an Obscurus). Her father, Percival, retaliated and attacked the boys, which landed him a life sentence in Azkaban, where he passed away. The family moved to Godric’s Hollow, where Kendra devoted her time to caring for Ariana.
However, tragedy struck soon after Albus graduated from Hogwarts: Ariana’s unstable magic killed Kendra. Soon after the tragedy, Albus began a close (and likely romantic) relationship with his equally brilliant peer, Grindelwald, who was visiting Godric’s Hollow. The two planned to use their magic to control Muggles, and mapped out how to find, unite, and use the Deathly Hallows to become all-powerful rulers. During the months of planning, Albus began neglecting his caretaker duties.
Enraged at his brother’s blindness about Grindelwald’s true nature and for abandoning their sick sister, Aberforth confronted Albus, only to be drawn into a duel with Grindelwald. Albus joined, and Ariana stepped in to try and stop the conflict. Ariana was killed in the crossfire — though none of the three wizards could ever be sure who cast the killing curse. The Dumbledore brothers never spoke again, and Albus and Grindelwald met only once more: In 1945, when they fought in what would become the most famous magical duel of all time.
The Timeline Is Bonkers
So how on earth could Credence possibly play into all of this? The timeline gets super tricky very fast. We know that Ariana died around 1899 at the age of 14, and Crimes of Grindelwald takes place in 1927. Leta and Newt were in the same Hogwarts year and are both around age 30 during the movie’s events. We don’t know Credence’s exact age, but he’s the same age Corvus would have been, and he’s clearly older than most children who are overtaken by their Obscurus and die (usually around age 10). Age-wise, it would make the most sense for Credence to be Albus or Aberforth’s son — though that would be, ya know, hugely unexpected news.
We also know that baby Credence was on board the same America-bound ship as Leta Lestrange when she accidentally killed her brother Corvus. Leta, resentful of her favored baby brother and tired of his crying, switched him out for a quieter baby in a neighboring cabin. However, before she could switch them back, the ship began to sink and everyone evacuated on lifeboats. Leta watched from afar as her baby brother’s lifeboat capsized and the woman — who believed Corvus to be her own baby — tried fruitlessly to save the sinking bundle. The baby who survived aboard Leta’s lifeboat was Credence. (Also, uhh, that ship might have been the Titanic. Who even knows anymore.)
The only solid canon parallel we have between Credence and the Dumbledore family is Ariana’s similarly unstable magic — which sounds very similar to the mysterious Obscurus. Is it possible that when Ariana died, her Obscurus somehow survived and found a new host in young Aurelius Dumbledore? But as Honoria had no known children, it’s highly unlikely that there would have been a baby Dumbledore cousin crawling around Godric’s Hollow, ripe for Obscurial possession. And the timeline wouldn’t make any sense.
All the Possibilities Are Pretty Dark
Why was Credence, presumably born Aurelius Dumbledore, on board a ship to America with a random woman? Kendra would have been long dead by the time the ship sailed. Could the timeline have worked out so that Kendra had a baby soon after Ariana’s horrible encounter and her husband’s imprisonment? Could Ariana’s magic have attached to her new baby brother and Kendra, panicked, sent him away? Or, worse, could one of the Dumbledore family have intentionally tried to save Ariana by attaching her Obscurus to baby Aurelius? But, again, the timeline doesn’t even come close to working out logically.
There’s also a possibility that Credence isn’t even human. Grindelwald refers to him as “an entity,” and Dumbledore likens Credence’s relationship with his Obscurus to that of a “sibling” during Crimes of Grindelwald — an interesting choice of words. One dark possibility is that when Ariana died, her Obscurus was so powerful that it somehow survived. It could have floated around for a while before taking human form (though an Obscurus usually dies with its host, and Newt was only able to preserve one by encasing it in magic) or somehow finding and fusing with Credence (though our limited knowledge of the magic has led us to believe it doesn’t have the ability to fuse with any being other than its original host).
So far, the simplest and most obvious answer seems to be that Aurelius is either Albus’ surprise son or nephew. But maybe there’s an even simpler twist at play: Grindelwald is lying. Perhaps Ariana truly was an Obscurial who, like Credence, managed to survive longer than usual. They’re exceedingly rare, and the trauma of that day has followed Albus his whole life. Perhaps Grindelwald is crafting a narrative to make Credence truly believe he’s a Dumbledore so that he can present him to Albus — a boy claiming to be his blood, who carries the same magical affliction as his dead sister — and hope the shock will weaken Dumbledore enough to either destroy him emotionally, or distract him long enough for Grindelwald to take his only magical equal off guard.
Basically, there are endless possibilities. We’ll have more than enough time to theorize between now and the next Fantastic Beasts movie. The only thing we know for sure right now is that Credence Barebone is actually Aurelius Dumbledore — how that’s even possible remains to be seen.