She may be a strict teacher, but deep down Professor Minerva McGonagall is actually a total badass. She has some great moments both in the books and on screen—but there are still facts you might not know about her. So sit back, grab some Butterbeer, and check out these 24 facts about Hogwarts’ best Transfiguration teacher.
Some Harry Potter fans may not know this, but McGonagall is actually Scottish. She was born the child of a Presbyterian Minister. Growing up in the Highlands in the early twentieth century, she would start to figure out she was not just an ordinary girl.
It’s no wonder that whenever the word “Mudblood” is uttered, she gets cross. McGonagall’s mother, Isobel Ross, was a witch, but her father, Robert, was a Muggle minister; her parents met and fell in love in the same village they both grew up in. The whole village, Robert included, thought Isobel went to a "select ladies' boarding school" when in actuality she was attending Hogwarts. The two ended up eloping, and Isobel continued to keep her magical secret from Robert.
When Isobel did finally reveal her secret to Robert, their marriage survived, but trust was broken between the two. Robert, an honest, upstanding man, hated being lied to, and hated having to keep the secret.
McGonagall has two younger brothers: Malcom and Robert Junior.
It’s how every Hogwarts’ student begins their school career: the Sorting Ceremony. McGonagall's sorting took an astonishing five and half minutes, resulting in was is known as a "Hatstall." The Sorting Hat could not decide whether to put her in Gryffindor or Ravenclaw (she eventually became a member of Gryffindor). In later years, she and Professor Flitwick would joke about this; he was also a Hatstall between the two houses, but was placed in Ravenclaw instead.
There is usually some kind of backstory to go with every name J.K. Rowling gives to her characters. The name "Minerva" actually refers to the Roman name for Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and war. The name "McGonagall" comes from the Celtic name "Conegal" which means “Son of the bravest.”
Avid book readers and film fans know McGonagall is an Animagus: She can transform into a cat at will. What fans may not know is that she is only one of seven Animagi who registered with the Ministry of Magic in the 20th century. It’s no easy feat learning how to turn into an animal—just look how long it took James Potter and Sirius Black! It was McGonagall’s passion for Transfiguration that made her want to become an Animagus, and she even asked Dubmledore for help in her final year.
Long before Harry finds out he’s a wizard, readers get their first glimpse of the magical world through McGonagall in her tabby cat form. When Vernon Dursley is leaving for work one day, he sees a cat reading a map. Soon after that, with the arrival of Dumbledore and Hagrid, we learn that cat is actually a witch. She is also the first female character to be introduced in both the book and film.
She’s the last person you would expect to play Quidditch, but apparently McGonagall did indeed join the Gryffindor team. It’s not known which position she played, but in her last year she was knocked off her broom by a Slytherin. That incident explains why she has a lifelong desire for Gryffindor to beat Slytherin for the cup every year. Also because everyone knows Slytherin is super evil.
Although it was never mentioned in the books or the film franchise, McGonagall and Professor Pomona Sprout were quite close at school. Sprout only arrived at Hogwarts when McGonagall was in her sixth year, but the two kept in constant contact after McGonagall graduated.
Besides being extremely adept at Transfiguration, McGonagall received both Prefect and Head Girl badges as well as top grades in her O.W.L and N.E.W.T examinations. Transfiguration Today gave her the “Most Promising Newcomer” award as well. As they should have.
After graduating Hogwarts, McGonagall returned home to Scotland. It was there that she fell in love with Dougal McGregor, the muggle son of a local farmer. The same summer they met, they became engaged. Unfortunately, McGonagall ultimately decided she did not want to live a lie like her mother did, but also wanted to uphold the International Statute of Secrecy, which forbids witches and wizards from revealing themselves to Muggles. As a result, she left for London and never saw him again; McGregor was killed by Death Eaters during Voldemort’s first revolution.
Upon arriving in London, McGonagall was offered a job in the Department on Magical Law Enforcement, the largest department in the Ministry of Magic. McGonagall only stayed at the Ministry for two years before being offered the Transfiguration professorship when Dumbledore became Headmaster.
Elphinstone Urquart was McGonagall’s former boss at the Ministry, and even after she left for Hogwarts, the two remained close friends. Urquart proposed to her in Madam Puddifoot's tea shop, but McGonagall turned him down (eventually multiple times) because she was still in love with McGregor. After McGregor died, however, she finally accepted Urquart's proposal, but they were married for only three years before tragedy struck again, and Urquart died after being bitten by a Venomous Tentacula.
During the Battle of Hogwarts, McGonagall was really the one who led the rebellion. In the books, she took out Death Eater Alecto Carrow, evacuated all the underage students, and even brought the Hogwarts statues to life to defend the castle. When Voldemort was showing off what was presumed to be Harry’s dead body, she ended up facing the Dark Lord himself alongside Kingsley Shacklebolt and Professor Slughorn.
Besides winning lots of school awards and accolades, McGonagall also received the top honor for a witch or wizard, The Order of Merlin: First Class. This award is given by The Ministry for outstanding acts of bravery, discovery, and entertainment in the wizarding world. Other well known recipients were Albus Dumbledore, Newt Scamander, and Remus Lupin. McGonagall received the award for her efforts at the Battle of Hogwarts and her loyalty to The Order of the Phoenix.
She is not only known for her strict teaching, but also for her straightforwardness. For example, when Harry, Hermione, and Ron defeated a full grown mountain troll in their first year, she was the first to point out it was "dumb luck."
When Umbridge told Harry that he would never become an Auror, McGonagall volunteered to coach him to ensure he reached his goal. Looks like she kept her word: Harry went on to to become not only an accomplished Auror, but Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
Dame Maggie Smith brought this remarkable woman to life on the big screen. Even though she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, Smith still worked on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince while doing chemotherapy. She also got shingles while filming the final two films, but toughed it out. You go, Maggie!
Although most fans regard Professor McGonagall as a hero and a crucial member of the Order of The Phoenix, people don't realize that during the First Wizarding War, she actually did not join the Order of the Phoenix. At the time, the Order of the Phoenix was seen as a renegade outfit, and McGonagall focused her efforts on helping aurors from the Ministry of Magic fight the Dark Lord. In her tabby cat form, she acted as a spy for the Ministry (which still arguably put her at great personal risk), bringing the aurors crucial information about the activities of Voldemort's followers.
However, it was only during the Second Wizarding War (1995-1998) that she joined the Order of the Phoenix. As a member of the Order, she led the defence of the castle during the Battle of Hogwarts, and even duelled Voldemort, along with the auror Kingsley Shacklebolt and Horace Slughorn.
When McGonagall returned to teach at Hogwarts, she kept letters from McGregor in a locked box under her bed. When she learned from her mother that her former lover had married a farmer's daughter, it came as a shock. Dumbledore happened to walk in on her in tears in a classroom, and comforted her while offering sage advice. He also revealed some of his own family history. This created a strong bond that the two shared from that day on until Dumbledore's death.
McGonagall certainly had a look all her own, both in the books and on screen. She seems to favor Scottish tartan: at least one of her dressing gowns, dress robes, and hats are each in the distinctive plaid.
McGonagall also often wears a Scottish brooch on her clothing; a rare touch of luxury in her no nonsense dress sense. The brooch is in a particular Scots style, with Scottish agate and Cairngorm citrines.
Following Voldemort’s defeat during the Battle of Hogwarts, McGonagall was reinstated as Headmistress—for good this time. She had held the position twice before: first in The Chamber of Secrets after Dumbledore was suspended thanks to Lucius Malfoy, and then in The Half-Blood Prince following Dumbledore’s death. As Headmistress, she hired Neville Longbottom to teach Herbology, and published Dumbledore’s notes on The Tales of Beedle the Bard. She also was present for the enrollment of Harry and Ginny’s three children, and plays an important role in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
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