Who or what is Credence Barebone?
Grindelwald has an answer. Whether it is completely true or not, he has a story that he is telling to his followers and to Credence.
He tells his followers that Credence is “the key to our victory,” “the only entity alive who can kill Dumbledore.” He claims that he knows “the strange and glorious truth” of who Credence is.
According to Dumbledore, “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.”
Assuming that this new information is true, it raises the question: When an Obscurus is replaced by “a real brother or sister,” what happens to it?
We have seen in at least one instance that it’s possible for an Obscurus to be contained outside its host, and that it may still be dangerous. Newt warned Jacob away from getting too close to the one in his suitcase.
But usually, an Obscurus dies when separate from its host. If it is forced apart from the Obscurial because of a brother or sister, it seems likely that the Obscurus would experience this as a fatal form of sibling rivalry and attack the rival.
Dumbledore and Grindelwald performed a blood ceremony that made them “closer than brothers.” If Grindelwald had an Obscurus, as Susan Şipal has speculated, then gaining Dumbledore as someone even closer than a brother would have forced the Obscurus out.
But if Dumbledore and Grindelwald shared blood, becoming closer than brothers, perhaps that means that any Obscurus tied to Grindelwald is now tied to Dumbledore as well. If an Obscurus is developed out of suppression and lovelessness, a bond of love like the one Dumbledore entered into with Grindelwald would be a vow to take on and heal the partner’s pain.
In the final scene of the movie, Grindelwald tells Credence, “You have suffered the most heinous of betrayals, most purposely bestowed upon you by your own blood. Your own flesh and blood. And just as he has celebrated your torment, your brother seeks to destroy you.”
Grindelwald does not say who this “own flesh and blood” is who betrayed Credence. The wording does not require the person who betrayed Credence to be the same person as the brother who “seeks to destroy” Credence, which is a kind of omission wordplay that J.K. Rowling has used before.
Speculation: If Dumbledore mingled his blood and magic with Grindelwald’s, and the Obscurus within Credence was once Grindelwald’s, that might make Dumbledore as well as Grindelwald into Credence’s “own blood.” If the Obscurus was threatened by Dumbledore’s union with Grindelwald, it might have attacked Dumbledore dangerously enough for a phoenix to come to help.
We know that phoenixes can intercept a would-be murder attempt, sacrificing themselves, because Fawkes does that for Dumbledore at the end of Order of the Phoenix: “Fawkes swooped down in front of Dumbledore, opened his beak wide, and swallowed the jet of green light whole. He burst into flame and fell to the floor, small, wrinkled, and flightless.” Phoenixes also have other miraculous powers, such as the ability to heal fatal wounds or carry heavy loads.
Is it possible that Credence contains an Obscurus that is a brother to Dumbledore because it was once Grindelwald’s “dark twin”? That this “dark twin” attacked Dumbledore, attracting a phoenix, and that the phoenix somehow became the Obscurus’s new host and took on a human form? This is speculation upon speculation, but fun enough to be worth taking further. What if the “entity” known as Credence is a combination of Grindelwald’s Obscurus and a human form of a Dumbledore phoenix, and this is part of what draws Credence into a friendship with Nagini, another hybrid human/magical beast?
This theory would explain how Dumbledore could be considered Credence’s brother even though Percival and Kendra Dumbledore both died before Credence’s birth (which is given as November 9, 1904 on his adoption certificate, even though infant Credence is shown making a sea voyage in 1901).
Grindelwald told Credence that his brother “celebrated his torment.” If Dumbledore was happy to separate Grindelwald from a parasitic Obscurus that would eventually kill Grindelwald, that might feel to the Obscurus like a celebration of torment.
As for “your brother seeks to destroy you,” if Grindelwald once hosted this Obscurus, this “dark twin,” he would certainly count as Credence’s brother. We know he wants the Obscurus to kill Dumbledore and does not care about Credence, the Obscurial; this could count as seeking to destroy him. Dumbledore’s desire to save Credence by finding a real brother or sister to replace the Obscurus could also be the meaning behind “seeks to destroy you,” if Grindelwald is talking to the Obscurus more than to the Obscurial.
In the hypothetical scenario where young Dumbledore and Grindelwald, having bonded, have encased Grindelwald’s Obscurus within a phoenix or other magical protection, there might have been a disagreement. Dumbledore might have wanted the Obscurus destroyed or contained; Grindelwald might have wanted to keep it as a weapon, horrifying Dumbledore. This disagreement could have led to Dumbledore sending the Obscurus away to hide it from Grindelwald.
I went into Crimes of Grindelwald thinking that perhaps Credence will eventually turn into Fawkes after playing a major role in the 1945 duel and sacrificing himself. After seeing the movie, I believe less in that theory, since the Dumbledore phoenix connection was brought up explicitly at the beginning of the second of five films. But this theory is too pretty for me to let go of yet: Credence as Fawkes, dying and being reborn, perhaps reaching a state of greater purity with each rebirth until he can assume his eventual phoenix shape in a form of alchemical transformation, as hinted by the name Aurelius, “golden.”
If Credence is, or will become, Fawkes, that would explain two things to me:
What will this series do with the fact that unlike Harry and Draco, who avoided splitting their souls by committing murder although each came very close, Credence has actually caused deaths, including the death of his innocent foster sister? The guilt of having caused death, no matter how unintentionally, is one of the major themes of Potterverse. If Credence, as Fawkes, sacrifices himself to protect others and is then reborn into a different identity, a higher form of existence, that could address his culpability for those deaths.
If Credence really is a Dumbledore sibling, why was there no mention of him in Deathly Hallows? How could something that important be omitted completely? Unless…it wasn’t. Perhaps he was in the series all along, giving tail feathers for wand cores, fighting the basilisk, living in Dumbledore’s office, gnawing on cuttlebone, appearing to people who showed great loyalty to Dumbledore, healing wounds and singing phoenix song.
Next blog post to come: Credence in search of his story.