Dumbledore Never Treats Harry Like He Seems to Be Treating Newt
There is a line in the last two trailers for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald that has many Potter fans convinced that Albus Dumbledore’s role in the series will once again be to manipulate the central characters into carrying out his grand designs. Fans have roundly criticized Dumbledore for unilaterally deciding to sacrifice Harry Potter’s life to defeat Voldemort, and when Dumbledore tells Newt, “I can’t move against Grindelwald. It has to be you,” it seems to convey that Dumbledore has always had a habit of avoiding responsibility and asking anyone who trusts and respects him to fight his battles for him. I would argue, however, that what Dumbledore asks of Newt is markedly different from what he asks of Harry decades later, and the difference between his treatment of these two central characters seems to show remarkable growth on his part.
We learn from his confession to Harry at King’s Cross that Dumbledore knew it was his responsibility to defeat Grindelwald but avoided confronting him for decades. Dumbledore tells Harry that he feared the truth about Ariana’s death, and the Crimes of Grindelwald trailers reveal that his abiding love for Grindelwald was likely another complicating factor. Perhaps Dumbledore is putting off his confrontation with Grindelwald because he does not think he can handle the pain of it. Perhaps Grindelwald and the power they sought together is too strong a temptation for Dumbledore to resist. In any case, Dumbledore has only selfish reasons for avoiding the inevitable confrontation with Grindelwald and enlisting Newt in this fight.
It is not Newt’s responsibility to “move against Grindelwald.” Newt doesn’t seem to have any desire to follow Dumbledore’s orders, to carry out whatever mission in Paris he has in mind, or to be caught up in the war with Grindelwald at all. Still, Dumbledore tells Newt, “It has to be you.” In putting some of his own responsibility onto Newt, Dumbledore appears to be using Newt as a pawn so that he can avoid coming face to face with Grindelwald for as long as possible. Though we can only make educated guesses about the context surrounding Dumbledore’s request of Newt, we do know that Dumbledore essentially allowed Grindelwald to bring destruction and terror to the wizarding world for two decades before he finally found the courage to stop him.
Dumbledore’s treatment of Newt is not at all the same as his treatment of Harry. It was never Dumbledore’s responsibility to face Lord Voldemort. It was, however, Harry’s destiny, ordained by prophecy and solidified by Voldemort’s firm belief that Harry was his sworn enemy, to face Voldemort and die by his hand. It was Dumbledore’s responsibility as the sole witness to the entirety of Trelawney’s prophecy to see it through to fulfillment once Voldemort showed that he believed in it. As Dumbledore explains in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, baby Harry’s survival in Godric’s Hollow only strengthened Voldemort’s belief in the prophecy, and Voldemort would continue to hunt Harry down even if Harry wanted no part of his prophesized fate.
Dumbledore created the Order of the Phoenix and spent years fighting Voldemort during his first reign. He fought Voldemort again when the opportunity arose at the Ministry of Magic. Still, Dumbledore is absolutely certain once he hears the prophecy that he cannot be the one to kill Voldemort. To ignore the prophecy and hide Harry away would be an abdication of his responsibility to the larger wizarding world because Voldemort would certainly cause devastation in hunting Harry down. Dumbledore guides Harry knowing he will have to willingly walk to his death at Voldemort’s hand, not because he is too cowardly or selfish to face Voldemort himself, but because he alone understands that it must be done. Newt Scamander was an ally and friend whom Dumbledore manipulated into taking on a responsibility that was not his. Harry Potter was a weapon, created by Voldemort, that only Dumbledore could use to take him down.
I think Dumbledore is going to grow a lot as a character over this film series. When Dumbledore chooses to avoid the pain of fighting Grindelwald for as long as possible, he causes devastation throughout the wizarding world by not fulfilling his responsibility. When it comes to defeating Voldemort, the selfish, less painful choice would be to ignore the prophecy rather than send a young boy to his death. Dumbledore learns from his experience with Grindelwald that fighting for the greater good means making painful choices and fulfilling your responsibilities rather than running from them. Dumbledore will grow out of his selfishness and become someone who understands the meaning of “the greater good” better than Grindelwald ever will. Judging by the trailers, however, it looks like it’s going to take a long time for Dumbledore to come to that realization.