Minerva McGonagall was the Transfiguration professor and Deputy Headmistress at Hogwarts for over forty years, and a powerful witch and Animagus (PS1, PS4). McGonagall has a stern exterior, keeping her classes strictly controlled and following the rules closely (PS8), yet has a warm heart and cares deeply for her friends and students. She also played a vital role in the Order of the Phoenix, valiantly directing the final battle against Voldemort (DH31). Professor McGonagall has dark hair which she pulls into a bun, wears glasses (PS1), and is frequently dressed in tartan plaids (PS14).
McGonagall was the head of Gryffindor House during Harry Potter’s years at Hogwarts (PS8) and was known for teaching challenging classes (CS6). She did not break rules (PA8) or tolerate misbehavior (CS5, PA14). She also refused to favor her own house (PS8); however, McGonagall cared deeply about Gryffindor’s success (PA10). She cried when Gryffindor won the Quidditch Cup (PA15).
Underneath her stern exterior, it was always clear that McGonagall cared deeply for her students. Her first instinct was to protect them at all times (OP27, DH30), and she could become quite emotional when they were hurt (CS16). Even at Voldemort’s first defeat she did not celebrate, but instead mourned at the passing of James and Lily (PS1), both of whom were her all-time favorite students (PmP). McGonagall often got emotional over Harry’s safety in particular (GF20); she was proud to have him in her house (DH30) and was one of those who cried loudest when she believed him dead (DH36).
Though generally respectful of her fellow teachers, McGonagall had little patience for less competent colleagues. A sarcastic wit came out, for instance, in talking with Lockhart (CS16) or Trelawney (PA11); though she was willing to defend even Trelawney (OP26) – and lead the school in revolt (OP30) – when faced with Dolores Umbridge. She is a tough woman; McGonagall took four stunning spells to the chest and survived (OP31), although she walked with a walking stick for awhile afterwards (OP38).
Minerva was not a member of the Order of the Phoenix during Voldemort’s first rise to power. However, she used her talent as an animagus to help spy on Death Eaters, providing vital information to the aurors of the Ministry of Magic. By the second Wizarding War McGonagall believed the Ministry to be corrupt and dangerous, so did not spy for them. She became a fully fledged member of the Order after Dumbledore’s death (PmP).
McGonagall had a great admiration and trust for Albus Dumbledore (PS1), passionately defending him (GF36) and being more than willing to fight on his behalf (OP27). When he was gone, McGonagall stepped up to fill his shoes; she drove Severus Snape from Hogwarts (DH30) and, completely trusting Harry’s instructions, willingly led the school in the Battle of Hogwarts against Lord Voldemort (DH31) – even dueling Voldemort herself as the battle drew to a close (DH36). She was also one of the first to rush to Harry upon Voldemort’s defeat, symbolic of the important place she held both in his life and in the wizarding world (DH36).
Minerva McGonagall is an Animagus, able to turn into a cat with markings around the eyes, similar to her square spectacles (PS1). Her Patronus is also a cat (DH30). She traditionally performs the Sorting ceremony at the Welcoming Feast (PS7, CS5, GF12, OP11).
Minerva McGonagall was born to a Hogwarts-educated witch and a Scottish-Presbyterian minister (WW). Like her mother, Minerva fell in love with a Muggle man, Dougal McGregor (WW). After initially accepting Dougal’s proposal of marriage, she considered the logistical implications, then returned to him to say she had changed her mind–and due to the Statute of Secrecy, she couldn’t tell him that she simply can’t bear to sacrifice her magical ambitions (WW). After an unhappy two years of working at the Ministry, she wrote to Albus Dumbledore to ask whether he might consider her for a teaching position (WW). She found success as a “strict but inspirational teacher” of Transfiguration, but Albus Dumbledore found her in tears one night after she received a letter from her mother, informing her that Dougal has married someone else (WW). As a result of this experience, she and Albus developed a deeper bond of mutual respect (WW). When Dumbledore finally confronted Grindelwald in 1945, Minerva was one of very few people to suspect how difficult the decision was for him (PmP). She was also aware of Dumbledore’s fears about young Tom Riddle, though she never taught him (PmP).
In the years to follow, Minerva remained close friends with her former Ministry boss, Elphinstone Urquart (WW). He surprised her in Madam Puddifoot‘s one day by proposing marriage to her, but she still loved Dougal, and she declined (WW). However, Elphinstone continued to propose to her periodically, and Minerva eventually agreed, in the wake of Voldemort’s first defeat (WW). Unfortunately, Elphinstone died of a Venomous Tentacula bite, three years into their happy marriage, and Minerva returned to her quarters in the castle, rather than continue to live in the Hogsmeade cottage she had shared with Elphinstone (WW). Minerva also mourned the loss of her brother, Robert, and Dougal McGregor–these at the hands of Voldemort during his first rise to power (PmP).
Needlework, correcting articles in Transfiguration Today, watching Quidditch, supporting the Montrose Magpies (WW)
Other canon notes and references
Birthdate: October 4 (JKR).
Birthyear: approximately 1935 (Sch2).
Hair: Black, pulled back into a bun (PS7).
Eyes: Square glasses, beady eyes.
Distinguishing features: rarely smiles (PS8); she wears tartan plaids -- even her nightdress and dress robes are tartan.
Animagus: a tabby cat with square markings around its eyes (PS1).
Patronus: a tabby cat with spectacle eye markings (DH30).
Hogwarts: Transfiguration Professor 1956-1998; Deputy Headmistress 1991-1998; Headmistress unknown-2020 (CC).
House: Gryffindor (c. 1937-44); Head of Gryffindor 1991-1998.
Office: First floor (up the main staircase, down a corridor).
Affiliation: Member of the Order of the Phoenix.
Interests: She is very keen on Quidditch and before an injury was a member of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team, supporter of the Montrose Magpies
Minerva was the Roman goddess of wisdom (Wikipedia).
The surname McGonagall comes from poet Sir William Topaz McGonagall (WW).
From the Web
Writing by J.K. Rowling on WizardingWorld (Pottermore): Professor McGonagall
Reddit (ibid-11962): Writing by J K Rowling from Pottermore Presents: Professor McGonagall by J K Rowling
- Harry Potter and the Order of Archetypes: Minerva McGonagall, the Matriarch by Katie Majka
- The Phoenix Files: Folder #1: Minerva McGonagall
- Top Five McGonagall Quotes by Minal Daswani
The Rowling Library, TRL Magazine Issue #46: article on page 29: The Dark Side of Minerva McGonagall by Rowena Pankhurst
Harry Potter Wiki: Minerva McGonagall
WizardingWorld (Pottermore) features: