The Phoenix Files: Post-HBP Update to Folder #1: Minerva McGonagall

By Christopher Stephen

Yes, Professor Minerva McGonagall is my favorite character in the series. Yes, that is why I chose her for my first File ever, nearly a year ago now. And yes, that is why she is the first File to be updated post-HBP.

Let’s review the four points I considered most likely to play a role in McGonagall’s future from my pre-HBP File:

1. McGonagall is NOT on Umbridge’s good side.
2. McGonagall is a registered animagus.
3. McGonagall is Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts.
4. McGonagall is excellent (behind only Dumbledore, perhaps?) at Transfiguration.

Taking each of these points one at a time:

1. I write that Umbridge may have a huge role during HBP, even though we don’t know about it while it is happening. It seems as though Umbridge takes a huge backseat in HBP. Could it be she’s whipping something up behind the scenes? Or is she really a non-factor? If she does have something up her sleeve, I don’t see it being beneficial to McGonagall or Harry, the two people she must loathe the most. No matter what, Jo wants us to remember her; she’s at the funeral.

2. The animagus registrar has not popped up again. I’m not sure it will in the series after reading HBP. Thus, I don’t see this being a major player (though McGonagall’s animagus abilities may be) in Book Seven.

3. McGonagall is Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts. From the pre-HBP File:

This is another piece of information, another mystery for us to solve. I believe this tells us one key point (and, granted, I could be TOTALLY wrong on this one): Dumbledore will die/retire BEFORE McGonagall dies/retires. Why else would we know this information?

I was right on for once! This is the role that becomes HUGE in HBP and will be the biggest thing on which we need to concentrate in Book Seven.

4. Because of McGonagall’s proficiency at Transfiguration, she will continue to play a big role in the series. This, combined with her new position at Hogwarts, will keep her as a “somewhat key” player in Book Seven. Now that Dumbledore is dead, it seems McGonagall may need to step in and take a more active role in Harry’s education. Perhaps Dumbledore’s portrait in the Head’s office will give her advice. All I know is that Harry doesn’t currently seem to possess enough knowledge to be powerful enough to take on all the Horcruxes, even with the help of Ron and Hermione (they didn’’t know about the Horcruxes, remember?). Surely becoming an expert at Transfiguration would help.

My other comments included the possibility that McGonagall will die before the end of the series (which I still see as possible), that she will develop into an even more major character (not so much until the end of HBP…possibly in Book Seven she will be pretty major), and that her family seems perfect for storyline expansion. I’m not sure Jo will have much more room for storyline expansion if Harry has to tackle three or four Horcruxes and Voldything himself in less than 1,000 pages, but it is still possible as well.

Since we’’ve quickly reviewed my thoughts and predictions pre-HBP, let’s see what role McGonagall actually plays throughout the book. I will mention those things which I find to be important, especially to the future of the series’ plot (aka Book Seven!).

McGonagall picks up right where she left off at the end of OotP (“It unscrews the other way.”). In Chapter Nine, “The Half-Blood Prince,” Neville is upset because McGonagall won’t let him take Transfiguration. Neville admits that he only wants to take it because it’s what his “grandmother wants.”

“Hmph,” snorted Professor McGonagall. “It’s high time your grandmother learned to be proud of the grandson she’s got, rather than the one she thinks she ought to have – particularly after what happened at the Ministry.”

She then suggests Neville takes Charms, in which he received an “E” O.W.L., but Neville says his “grandmother thinks Charms is a soft option.”

“Take Charms,” said Professor McGonagall, “and I shall drop Augusta a line reminding her that just because she failed her Charms O.W.L., the subject is not necessarily worthless.”

This is AWESOME. I had totally forgotten about this small conversation until my re-read of HBP. And she pops up again, this time in Chapter Twelve, entitled “Silver and Opals.” She, in Dumbledore’s absence, gets the full story of Katie being cursed by the necklace in Hogsmeade. This is the passage that caught my attention:

“The headmaster is away until Monday Potter…yes, Potter, away! But anything you have to say about this horrible business can be said to me, I’m sure!”

McGonagall clearly has a little cheek to her, but this quote has a very deep meaning. She is confident, able, and willing to take up the duties of Headmistress. Is that a good thing, since she’s somewhat thrown into the position at the end of HBP? This is FORESHADOWING; more on that to come. Harry eventually gives in to her and lets her know of his Malfoy suspicion. She takes his suspicion into account (does not ignore it like Hermione), but concludes that since Malfoy was not in Hogsmeade that day, he could not have been a part of it; yet she tells Dumbledore anyway (the right thing to do) of Harry’s suspicion.

Then, of course, the most dynamic part of the book: the ending.

“This is all my fault,” said Professor McGonagall suddenly. She looked disoriented, twisting her wet handkerchief in her hands. “My fault. I sent Filius to fetch Snape tonight, I actually sent for him to come and help us! If I hadn’’t alerted Snape to what was going on, he might never have joined forces with the Death Eaters. I don’t think he knew they were there before Filius told him, I don’t think he knew they were coming.” “I don’t know exactly how it happened,” said Professor McGonagall distractedly. “It’s all so confusing…Dumbledore had told us that he would be leaving the school for a few hours and that we were to patrol the corridors just in case…Remus, Bill, and Nymphadora were to join us…and so we patrolled. All seemed quiet. Every secret passageway out of the school was covered. We knew nobody could fly in. There were powerful enchantments on every entrance into the castle. I still don’t know how the Death Eaters can possibly have entered…”

McGonagall is losing it. Who wouldn’’t be? In fact, it seems nearly all the members of the Order lose it when Dumbledore dies. The sole exception may be Lupin. But McGonagall recovers more quickly than any of them:

“Dumbledore would have been happier than anybody to think that there was a little more love in the world…I shall see to the Ministry when they get here…[and she begins barking orders].”

McGonagall does an excellent, efficient job of managing the school immediately after Dumbledore’s death. Like Dumbledore, she manages everything in a very short amount of time by delegating tasks to other (ahem) trustworthy teachers.

Then, McGonagall throws that “Dumbledore is gone, Potter” line at Harry again, trying to get him to tell her what happened that evening. I think we’re supposed to recall the time with Katie and the necklace when McGonagall asked a similar question and demanded an answer using a similar excuse. But Harry will not tell McGonagall about the journey to the cave. Interestingly, he obeys Dumbledore’s order and speaks only to Hermione and Ron about it. Throughout the series, I have trusted McGonagall as much as Dumbledore, but he must have had his reasons why Harry was not to tell Minerva. I believe that Dumbledore might have thought McGonagall a weaker link, and that the Death Eaters could have tortured the information out of her (which is probably true). I feel this is going to be an important point of interest in the final installment: McGonagall does NOT know about the trip to the cave.

Thus, the important things to remember about Minerva McGonagall as we enter into the journey that will be Book Seven are similar to those points we were to keep in mind throughout HBP:

1. McGonagall is STILL not on Umbridge’s good side, and Jo didn’’t want us to forget about Umbridge (she was at the funeral).
2. McGonagall left the subject of Hogwarts’ opening and closing up to the governors and requested a lot of input from various sources before deciding anything after Dumbledore’s death. She is unlike Dumbledore in this way (who usually seemed to do things his own way). Will this be a good or a bad thing?
3. McGonagall is Headmistress of Hogwarts, a registered animagus, and extremely good at Transfiguration. Could these attributes help Harry on his Horcrux quest?
4. McGonagall may have been viewed as weak by Dumbledore, who didn’’t want her to know more than necessary, and she doesn’’t know anything about the cave.

Minerva McGonagall: a dynamic character with a lot of spunk and, now, a position of authority. Let’s hope that she continues to be Dumbledore’s woman, through and through, even though Dumbledore is no longer immediately present.