Professor Minerva McGonagall is the head of Gryffindor house, the Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts, and the best dang Transfiguration teacher the school has ever seen. But in Harry Potter’s world, she is also a fair disciplinarian, which he’s never had. She offers him emotional support where he would otherwise have none.
And though Harry often doesn’t see it, Minerva is a staunch defender of his to Dumbledore and anyone else who she thinks doesn’t have his best interests at heart. Basically, McGonagall is a year-round maternal figure in Harry’s life, which he desperately needs. Here are ten of the lines that make her into the wonderful woman everyone loves.
10 “Five points will be awarded to each of you for sheer dumb luck.”
When Ron and Harry save Hermione from a grisly fate with the troll in The Sorcerer’s Stone, Professor McGonagall bursts into the girl’s bathroom along with Professor Snape. Both professors are astonished that three eleven-year-olds could have held their own against a fully grown mountain troll, and even though she’s impressed, McGonagall clearly knows they’re not telling the full story.
It may only be two months into their first year at Hogwarts, but clearly, she’s already realized that there is more to Harry, Ron, and Hermione than meets the eye, even if she doesn’t know what yet. Five points each seems like a pretty low reward for saving someone’s life though, especially since she deducted five points from Hermione for (supposedly) going after the troll on her own.
9 “Why is it when something happens, it is always you three?”
In Half-Blood Prince, the trio has tripped right into yet another dangerous situation, this time when Katie Bell accidentally touched a cursed necklace. When McGonagall rounds them up for questioning, her big one is just this resigned curiosity about how the members of her house always wind up in trouble. It classic because it’s true.
Somehow, the three of them always seem to find themselves in the thick of things, even when they really don’t want to be. It also sets up one of Ron Weasley’s best lines, “Believe me, Professor, I’ve been asking myself the same question for six years.”
8 “Why don’t you confer with Mr. Finnigan? As I recall, he has a particular proclivity for pyrotechnics.”
Try saying “particular proclivity for pyrotechnics” five times fast! This is a great joke because it brings back nearly 7 movies worth of Seamus Finnigan making things explode…by accident. While Fred and George are always planning their next exploding prank, Finnigan’s pyrotechnics are largely the result of him not getting his wandwork right.
Nevertheless, this light little jab from Professor McGonagall moments before the harrowing Battle of Hogwarts begins is just the encouragement that Seamus and Neville need from their Head of House. It also gives Seamus something heroic to do during the final battle, when in the book he passed through the battle mostly unmentioned.
7 “Perhaps it would be more useful if I were to transfigure Mr. Potter and yourself into a pocket watch?”
For all that she can be a serious and dignified teacher, Minerva McGonagall can bring some sass to the party. This entire exchange from The Sorcerer’s Stone begins when Ron and Harry arrive for Transfiguration class late. She wants none of their flattery and lightly threatens them with being transfigured into a pocket watch so they won’t be late again.
When they beg for forgiveness by saying they were lost, she suggests a map instead. We know she wouldn’t be allowed to use Transfiguration as a punishment, but Hogwarts does seem like the kind of place where that threat isn’t completely idle.
6 “Potter, take Weasley with you, he looks far too happy over there.”
At the beginning of Half-Blood Prince, Harry and Ron have done poorly enough on some of their OWLs that they’re not allowed to continue on in some of their subjects. McGonagall stumbles across them in the hallway, laughing at first years as 16-year-old boys are going to do.
The Professor immediately enrolls Potter in Potions, insisting he go down to the dungeons at once. When she looks up and sees Ron laughing loudly, she utters this delightfully sassy line. Like Harry, Potions was one of Ron’s weakest subjects, so this is sure to be a punishment for him.
5 “We’ll leave you to deal with the monster, Gilderoy. Your skills, after all, are legend.”
This insult stings and we aren’t even on the receiving end of it. Throughout Chamber of Secrets, barely competent Professor Gilderoy Lockhart boasts about his many achievements that he has written about and lead to his fame. If his constant showboating wasn’t already irritating enough, many of the teachers seem to have caught onto the fact that Lockhart is lying about all of this.
When Ginny Weasley is taken into the Chamber of Secrets, McGonagall insults Gilderoy with this, calling his skills “legend,” as in “fiction,” instead of “legendary” as in “amazing.” She knows that if she directly calls him to action for a fight, he’ll run away screaming, and that’s exactly what she wants: This moron out of the way. We’re going to remember her line next time we need to get in a good insult.
4 “His name is Voldemort, Filius. You might as well use it, he’s going to try to kill you either way.”
McGonagall says this completely deadpan just seconds after sending Neville and Finnigan off to make something go “Boom!” This is one of the things we love about McGonagall. She is straightforward and to the point, even if the point is a tiny bit scary. She says this to Flitwick, encouraging him to be brave in the face of imminent danger, if in a slightly roundabout way. They both, after all, survive the final Battle.
This is also a wonderful moment of growth for McGonagall. Until this point, she had been afraid to say Voldemort’s name, choosing instead to use ‘You-Know-Who,’ like many in the Wizarding World. However, fear of the name only increases fear of the thing itself, and McGonagall is walking into this battle bravely.
3 “Potter is a boy, not a piece of meat!”
One of the cruelest things we find out in Deathly Hallows is that Dumbledore always suspected that Harry would have to die when he faced Voldemort. In a way, Dumbledore was just keeping Harry alive so he would die at the right time. It’s horrible.
All the way back in Goblet of Fire, McGonagall is already horrified with the casual way that Dumbledore, Snape, and Moody all talk about Harry’s life. They’ve decided to let him compete in the Triwizard Tournament, an event they all acknowledge is terribly dangerous, but lion-hearted McGonagall isn’t having it. It’s heartwarming to see her rise up to fight for Harry, even though he doesn’t get to see it. McGonagall’s line echoes down the line of all the movies: Harry is a boy, not bait.
2 “Piertotum Locomotor!”
In what is probably McGonagall’s most heroic moment, she gets to cast this spell. It is one she’s apparently never had to use, which is a good thing. It brings to life all of the statues and suits of armor throughout Hogwarts. In an extremely heavy moment, McGonagall sends them to the boundaries of the castle as the next line of defense against the Death Eaters.
The way they film her and the descent of the soldiers is nothing short of heroic, and it is a well-deserved moment for this woman who has fought for Harry every step of the way.
1 “Welcome to Hogwarts!”
This is McGonagall's sweetest moment. As Harry, Ron, Hermione, Draco, and the rest of the students climb the stairs in Hogwarts for the first time, McGonagall stands at the top. She strikes an elegant, strong, and impressive figure. After Hagrid and the boats, she is the first person at Hogwarts most of these students ever see, and the first thing she makes sure to do is to welcome them.
She may seem strict and scary, but we know from her smile at this moment that McGonagall is warm and loving. And she gets to say the words that every fan has dreamed of hearing: Welcome to Hogwarts!