Albus Dumbledore first met Gellert Grindelwald at a rather difficult time in his life, when he was seventeen years old. He had just finished his studies at Hogwarts, where he had excelled at everything, been Head Boy and won prize after prize – including the Barnabus Finkley Prize for Exceptional Spell-Casting. This exciting stage of his life had been set to continue, as he was supposed to go on a tour of the world with his friend Elphias Doge. However, tragedy struck on the eve of their trip. His mother, Kendra, was killed in an accident and Albus had to return to Godric’s Hollow to take care of his brother, Aberforth and sister, Ariana. This was no easy task, as after being brutally attacked by a group of Muggle boys, his sister had turned her magic inwards, was unstable, sometimes dangerous and needed constant care.
It just so happened that during that summer another wizard was preparing to spend some time in that particular village, Gellert Grindelwald. He had come to stay with his great aunt Bathilda Bagshot. Like Albus, Gellert was another gifted young wizard. However, according to Rita Skeeter (who isn’t known for being an especially reliable source), rather than channelling his abilities into winning prizes and achievements, Grindelwald had taken a different path and had been expelled from the Durmstrang Institute as a result.
Yet, as two highly intelligent wizards of the same age who were stuck in a small village, it is easy to understand why these two were drawn to one another. Dumbledore and Grindelwald soon struck up a friendship, bouncing ideas off one another, obsessing over the Deathly Hallows and coming up with their plan of how the wizarding world could look if Muggles were subservient to wizards.
Their conversations served as an escape for Dumbledore, who had felt trapped after the death of his mother and allowed him to imagine a future where he was free to do as he pleased. Dumbledore believed that if he and Grindelwald were successful at finding all the Hallows, not only would they become immensely powerful and the masters of death, but he could use the Resurrection Stone to bring his parents back and lift all the responsibility he had from his shoulders.
Yet, reality soon came calling for Dumbledore, in the form of his siblings…
During that summer, Dumbledore had neglected both his brother and his sister and Aberforth soon let him know about it. Aberforth was set to return to Hogwarts and was fed up with Dumbledore’s plotting with Grindelwald – in addition to being concerned about Ariana’s care. He bluntly reminded Albus that he could not go searching for the Deathly Hallows with his fragile sister in tow. Albus and Gellert were not happy to have their dreams crushed and made their feelings clear.
According to Aberforth, this involved Grindelwald becoming angry and calling him a stupid little boy. He told Aberforth that Ariana would no longer have to be hidden if he and Albus were successful and that he shouldn’t stand in their way.
Unfortunately, this argument soon took a turn for the worse and escalated into a fight. Aberforth drew his wand and so did Gellert. He used the Cruciatus Curse on Aberforth, which prompted Albus to try and stop him. Soon, all three wizards were duelling. The loud noises and flashing lights caused immeasurable distress to Ariana, who then tried to become involved. Aberforth always maintained that she wanted to help but didn’t know how. Amidst all the chaos, she ended up dead. Though nobody knows who was the one to cast the curse that killed her, Grindelwald fled and that marked the end of his and Dumbledore’s friendship.
By the time we came across Dumbledore and Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts, decades had passed since their summer together as teenagers. Grindelwald was still determined to enact his vision for the wizarding world. He had also managed to steal the Elder Wand from the wandmaker Gregorovitch – so was now in possession of one of the Deathly Hallows.
Meanwhile, Dumbledore had taken a different path entirely. Distancing himself from Grindelwald, he had become a respected teacher at Hogwarts. He had also built up a reputation as a talented and powerful wizard – even if he did find himself at odds with the Ministry of Magic on occasion. In the ensuing years, he saw that his former friend was becoming even more dangerous (especially after Grindelwald’s escape from MACUSA custody at the beginning of Crimes of Grindelwald) but mysteriously refused to move against him – although many believed that he was the only wizard capable of stopping Grindelwald.
We soon learnt that Dumbledore’s refusal was due to the fact he was unable to oppose him, rather than unwilling. In the chaos caused by Grindelwald’s deadly rally in Paris, Teddy the Niffler stole a jewelled vial from the Dark wizard. It turned out to be a blood troth between Dumbledore and Grindelwald, which meant that they were prohibited from moving against each other. It also offered and added insight into their relationship as teenagers. They must have been extremely close to be willing to form such a pact.
Yet, as Newt presented the troth to Dumbledore at the end of Crimes of Grindelwald, we can’t help but wonder what that now means for the pair. Will Dumbledore be able to destroy it? Will he even want to? And though we know they supposedly don’t come face-to-face until their duel in 1945, does this now mean Dumbledore can move against the Dark wizard?
While Dumbledore had defeated Grindelwald many years before Harry Potter’s story took place, we still think that part of their history is worth mentioning – especially as Grindelwald’s name cropped up.
In fact, Grindelwald was mentioned as far back as Philosopher’s Stone. When Harry unwrapped his first-ever Chocolate Frog, he got the Dumbledore card which read, ‘Professor Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of the Dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945’ – though that’s the last we heard about that particular Dark wizard until the Deathly Hallows. It was in this book that we learnt about the pair’s turbulent past and how they knew each other so well. Yet it was also this book that showed us the end of Grindelwald’s story, when he was murdered in his cell at Nurmengard by Lord Voldemort – who was in pursuit of the Elder Wand.
What made things interesting was that Grindelwald had refused to tell Voldemort where the Elder Wand was. He knew that Dumbledore was the current owner and he probably worked out that it remained with Dumbledore in his tomb. You might think that as Dumbledore was the reason that he was locked up, he would be more than happy to share the information with Voldemort, but he didn’t. It was his unspoken motivation behind that decision that was fascinating.
Some say that in his fifty years in Nurmengard, Grindelwald had begun to show remorse for his actions. So, this could have been an attempt to try and make some small amends by stopping Voldemort from getting his hands on the Hallow. But it was Harry who raised another interesting and valid point. Harry said he may have withheld the information to stop Voldemort from desecrating Dumbledore’s tomb. If that had been the case, it could have meant that, despite everything that went on between them, Grindelwald still had a lingering affection or respect for his former friend…
While we know the start and the end of this pair’s story, what happened in the middle is still rather a mystery. Though, if the trailers for The Secrets of Dumbledore are anything to go by, we might be about to learn a little more about that period of time. At the very least, we think we are going to get a deeper insight into their relationship.
We wonder whether this film will reveal more about the aforementioned blood troth and what Dumbledore decides to do with it. While it was arguably his relationship with Grindelwald that caused the death of his sister, the fractured bond with his brother and his own decision to never pursue power in the same way again, how easy would it really be for Dumbledore to move against someone with whom he had such a complex and long history?
On another note, we can’t help but be curious about the glimpses we’ve seen of the pair together. They famously never came back into contact until their climactic duel in 1945… but was that really the case? Or is there more to their intricate history than we ever knew? What seems sure is that these two wizards appear to be bound to one another, and we’re excited to see where their story takes us next.