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  Following the promotion of Severus Snape to Headmaster, after her temporary stewardship of the school, Minerva McGonagall remained in post to protect the students as best she could from the malicious attentions of the Carrows, the Death Eater teachers imposed upon the school by Lord Voldemort. In spite of her well-known loyalty to Professor Dumbledore, Voldemort and his followers believed that Minerva was both too gifted to lose, and too sensible not to join them fully once their victory was assured.

  In this, however, they were quite mistaken, and Minerva McGonagall’s actions during the famous Battle of Hogwarts proved that her allegiance to the Order of the Phoenix had never wavered. She was one of the last to duel Voldemort before his death, an encounter she survived, and she subsequently became a successful and inspirational Headmistress of the school she had served so long and well. Minerva McGonagall was later awarded the Order of Merlin, First Class, by the new Minister for Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, and shortly afterwards appeared on a card in the Chocolate Frog Famous Witches and Wizards series, an accolade she admitted she had never imagined receiving.

  Relationship with Harry Potter

  Minerva McGonagall was not immune to a secret amusement at the antics of rule-breakers. Nevertheless, she frequently questioned Dumbledore’s policy of allowing Harry to run extreme risks, and bend many school rules, during his adolescence, often showing herself to be more protective of Harry than the then Headmaster. Harry had a claim on Minerva’s affections, not only because he was the son of two of her all-time favourite students, but because he, like herself, had suffered serious bereavements. Although she neither spoiled nor favoured Harry when he was her student, she revealed the depth of her trust in him during the Battle of Hogwarts, at which time she supported him unequivocally even though she had never been fully in his or Dumbledore’s confidence.

  Following a private conversation with Harry, Minerva McGonagall later took the controversial decision to add a portrait of Severus Snape to the gallery of old headmasters and headmistresses in her tower office.

  J.K. Rowling’s thoughts

  Minerva was the Roman goddess of warriors and wisdom. William McGonagall is celebrated as the worst poet in British history. There was something irresistible to me about his name, and the idea that such a brilliant woman might be a distant relative of the buffoonish McGonagall.

  A small sample of his work will give a flavour of its unintentional comedic value. The following was written as part of a poem commemorating a Victorian railway disaster:

  Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Sil’vry Tay!

  Alas! I am very sorry to say

  That ninety lives have been taken away

  On the last Sabbath day of 1879,

  Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

  The first time we meet Professor McGonagall, she’s at the corner of Privet Drive in the form of a tabby cat, reading a map. It’s only when Dumbledore arrives that she Transfigures back into her human form. This rare ability to switch between feline and human form makes McGonagall an Animagus. Exactly how arduous and particular is this type of magic? Let’s find out.

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  ANIMAGI

  BY J.K. ROWLING

  An Animagus is a witch or wizard who can transform at will into an animal. While in their animal form, they retain most of their ability to think as a human, their own sense of identity and their memories. They will also retain normal human life expectancy, even if they take their animal form for long periods of time. However, feelings and emotions are simplified and they will have many animal desires, feeding off whatever their animal body craves, rather than demanding human food.

  It is immensely difficult to change oneself into an Animagus and the process, which is complex and time-consuming, can go dramatically wrong. As a result, it is believed that fewer than one in a thousand witches or wizards are Animagi.

  An Animagus has a great potential advantage in the spheres of espionage and crime. For this reason, an Animagus Registry exists on which all Animagi are expected to log their personal details and the precise appearance of their transformed self. It is usually the case that distinctive markings or disabilities belonging to the human body will transfer to the animal self. Failure to enter oneself onto the Registry may result in a stretch in Azkaban.

  When the process of becoming an Animagus goes wrong, it often goes seriously wrong. Impatience with the long and complicated process is generally at the root of such disasters, which usually take the form of horrible half-human, half-animal mutations. There is no known cure for such mistakes and those who make them are often forced to live out their days in their pitiable condition, being unable to become fully animal or fully human.

  Talent in both Transfiguration and Potions is necessary to become an Animagus. No responsibility can be taken for any physical or mental problems resulting from following these instructions.

  1. For the space of one entire month (from full moon to full moon), a single leaf from a Mandrake must be carried constantly in the mouth. The leaf must not be swallowed or taken out of the mouth at any point. If the leaf is removed from the mouth, the process must be started again.

  2. Remove the leaf at the full moon and place it, steeped in your saliva, in a small crystal phial that receives the pure rays of the moon (if the night is cloudy, you will have to find a new Mandrake leaf and begin the whole process again). To the moon-struck crystal phial, add one of your own hairs, a silver teaspoon of dew collected from a place that neither sunlight nor human feet have touched for a full seven days, and the chrysalis of a Death’s-head Hawk Moth. Put this mixture in a quiet, dark place and do not look at it or otherwise disturb it until the next electrical storm.

  3. While waiting for the storm, the following procedure should be followed at sunrise and sundown. The tip of the wand should be placed over the heart and the following incantation spoken: ‘Amato Animo Animato Animagus.’

  4. The wait for a storm may take weeks, months or even years. During this time, the crystal phial should remain completely undisturbed and untouched by sunlight. Contamination by sunlight gives rise to the worst mutations. Resist the temptation to look at your potion until lightning occurs. If you continue to repeat your incantation at sunrise and sunset there will come a time when, with the touch of the wand-tip to the chest, a second heartbeat may be sensed, sometimes more powerful than the first, sometimes less so. Nothing should be changed. The incantation should be uttered without fail at the correct times, never omitting a single occasion.

  5. Immediately upon the appearance of lightning in the sky, proceed directly to the place where your crystal phial is hidden. If you have followed all the preceding steps correctly, you will discover a mouthful of blood-red potion inside it.

  6. It is essential to move, at once, to a large, secure place where your transformation cannot cause alarm or place you in physical danger. Place your wand-tip against your heart, speak the incantation ‘Amato Animo Animato Animagus,’ and then drink the potion.

  7. If all has gone correctly, you will feel a fiery pain and an intense double heartbeat. Into your mind will come the shape of the creature into which you are shortly to transform. You must show no fear. It is too late, now, to escape the change you have willed.

  8. The first transformation is usually uncomfortable and frightening. Clothing and items such as glasses or jewellery meld to the skin and become one with fur, scales or spikes. Do not resist and do not panic or the animal mind may gain the ascendancy and you could do something foolish, such as try to escape through a window or charge a wall.

  9. When your transformation is complete you should find yourself physically comfortable. You are strongly advised to pick up your wand at once, and hide it in a place of safekeeping, where you will be able to find it when you regain a human form.

  10. To return to a human form, visualise your human self as clearly as you can. This should be sufficient, but do not panic if the transformation does not occur immediately. With practice, you wi