Minerva McGonagall was the first child, and only daughter, of a Scottish Presbyterian minister and a Hogwarts-educated witch. She grew up in the Highlands of Scotland in the early twentieth century, and only gradually became aware that there was something strange, both about her own abilities, and her parents’ marriage.
Minerva’s father, the Reverend Robert McGonagall, had become captivated by the high-spirited Isobel Ross, who lived in the same village. Like his neighbours, Robert believed that Isobel attended a select ladies’ boarding school in England. In fact, when Isobel vanished from her home for months at a time, it was to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that she went.
Aware that her parents (a witch and wizard) would frown on a connection with the serious young Muggle, Isobel kept their burgeoning relationship a secret. By the time she was eighteen, she had fallen in love with Robert. Unfortunately, she had not found
the courage to tell him what she was.
The couple eloped, to the fury of both sets of parents. Now estranged from her family, Isobel could not bring herself to mar the bliss of the honeymoon by telling her smitten new husband that she had graduated top of her class in Charms at Hogwarts, nor that she had been Captain of the school Quidditch team. Isobel and Robert moved into a manse (minister’s house) on the outskirts of Caithness, where the beautiful Isobel proved surprisingly adept at making the most of the minister’s tiny salary.
The birth of the young couple’s first child, Minerva, proved both a joy and a crisis. Missing her family, and the magical community she had given up for love, Isobel insisted on naming her newborn daughter after her own grandmother, an immensely talented witch. The outlandish name raised eyebrows in the community in which she lived, and the Reverend Robert McGonagall found it difficult to explain his wife’s choice to his parishioners. Furthermore, he was alarmed by his wife’s moodiness. Friends assured him that women were often emotional after the birth of a baby, and that Isobel would soon be herself again.
Isobel, however, became more and more withdrawn, often secluding herself with Minerva for days at a time. Isobel later told her daughter that she had displayed small, but unmistakable, signs of magic from her earliest hours. Toys that had been left on upper shelves were found in her cot. The family cat appeared to do her bidding before she could talk. Her father’s bagpipes were occasionally heard to play themselves from distant rooms, a phenomenon that made the infant Minerva chuckle.
Isobel was torn between pride and fear. She knew that she must confess the truth to Robert before he witnessed something that would alarm him. At last, in response to Robert’s patient questioning, Isobel burst into tears, retrieved her wand from the locked box under her bed and showed him what she was.
Although Minerva was too young to remember that night, its aftermath left her with a bitter understanding of the complications of growing up with magic in a Muggle world. Although Robert McGonagall loved his wife no less upon discovering that she was a witch, he was profoundly shocked by her revelation, and by the fact that she had kept such a secret from him for so long. What was more, he, who prided himself on being an upright and honest man, was now drawn into a life of secrecy that was quite foreign to his nature.