"How did you know it was me?"

This is what Minerva says when Dumbledore reveals that he knows she was there...

"Fancy seeing you here, Professor McGonagall." … She looked distinctly ruffled.

She shouldn't have been so surprised if she was registered, now would she?

Yes, I know she was registered when Hermione checked, but that was a decade later.

Was Minerva McGonagall an unregistered animagus in 1981?

  • 38
    I think the point is she's surprised Dumbledore recognises a random cat in a random dark muggle street as her. It's not like she spends large chunks of time in her cat form!
    – DavidS
    Jan 25, 2017 at 9:44
  • 10
    How to earn the Popular Question badge: 1) post a HP question; 2) profit! Jan 25, 2017 at 18:00
  • 2
    @Gallifreyan Give the people what they want. Jan 25, 2017 at 23:09
  • 6
    Even if he didn't recognize her 100%, what's the harm addressing a cat when nobody's around? He could've said "hello" to 10 cats before she arrived. Jan 26, 2017 at 6:54
  • 1
    @ibid Mentally add the words "around Dumbledore" to my comment. That answer is interesting though!
    – DavidS
    Jan 26, 2017 at 9:50

3 Answers 3


She was used to being unrecognized in her cat form

As noted by Gallifreyan, the Pottermore article clearly states that she was registered before she graduated Hogwarts, and with Dumbledore's help.

By the end of her education at Hogwarts, Minerva McGonagall had achieved an impressive record: top grades in O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s, Prefect, Head Girl, and winner of the Transfiguration Today Most Promising Newcomer award. Under the guidance of her inspirational Transfiguration teacher, Albus Dumbledore, she had managed to become an Animagus; her animal form, with its distinctive markings (tabby cat, square spectacles markings around the eyes) were duly logged into the Ministry of Magic's Animagus Registry.
Pottermore - Professor McGonagall

So why was she surprised? Because she was used to using that form to pass completely unnoticed by all except her the Aurors she worked with. Although she was close with Dumbledore, she wasn't working for the Order at the time.

Minerva McGonagall did not teach the young Tom Riddle, but she was privy to Dumbledore’s fears and suspicions about him. Minerva was not inducted into the Order of the Phoenix during Voldemort’s first climb to power (at that time the Order of the Phoenix was seen as a renegade outfit by the Ministry; successive Ministers feared Dumbledore’s charisma and magical talent, and were inclined to harbour fears that he wished to succeed them). Minerva’s abilities as an Animagus were to prove useful in these dark periods of wizarding history, however, and unbeknownst to her students she spent many nights spying for the Ministry in the guise of a tabby cat, bringing the Aurors crucial information on the activities of Voldemort’s followers.
Pottermore - Professor McGonagall (behind paywall)

  • 1
    Nice find, that last part. moneybag :D Jan 25, 2017 at 14:15
  • 4
    @Gallifreyan - The only reason why I post answers from the few scraps of additional material in those ebooks is too complain about the fact that Pottermore is charging money for them.
    – ibid
    Jan 25, 2017 at 14:18
  • 10
    scraps . . . charging money for them - related Jan 25, 2017 at 14:21
  • in the 4rth book, when Krum part-transfigures into a shark, is similar to an animagus method?
    – lois6b
    Jan 26, 2017 at 9:54
  • 3
    @lois6b - You should probably post that as a new question.
    – ibid
    Jan 26, 2017 at 12:21

From Pottermore (by J.K. Rowling):

Under the guidance of her inspirational Transfiguration teacher, Albus Dumbledore, she had managed to become an Animagus; her animal form, with its distinctive markings (tabby cat, square spectacles markings around eyes) were duly logged in the Ministry of Magic’s Animagus Registry.

Emphasis mine

While this doesn't have a date stamp on it, it is implied that her being an Animagus was logged right after she completed her training as one.

From a related question, we see that Dumbledore did not know that McGonagall was going to be at Privet Drive. To combine this with The Dark Lord's comment, we can conjecture that McGonagall was surprised because she thought Dumbledore had no way of knowing she would be waiting there, let alone recognize her in her cat form. Dumbledore, of course, being very observant, easily recognized his former student.

  • 15
    Added point: there are millions of random cats wandering around Muggledom. If McGonagall didn't say she was coming Dumbledore had no reason to recognise her. He only did because he was being particularly observant. Jan 25, 2017 at 10:17
  • 2
    @TheDarkLord - Observant made me think of her, for some reason. Jan 25, 2017 at 10:22
  • 2
    @TheDarkLord "there are millions of random cats wandering around Muggledom" really should be part of some answer here, I think. Possibly this one, since you added the comment here...
    – TGar
    Jan 25, 2017 at 15:30

We see throughout a few of the books that Dumbledore seems to know quite a lot about what normal people would never perceive.

Considering the many inventions he created, and how great a wizard he was, I think there are multiple possibilities as to why he would have known she was there, beyond just, "he recognized his student".

In fact, I think that makes her surprise all the much more interesting. Perhaps she thought better of her own abilities and underestimated his? Perhaps Dumbledore hadn't had as many accomplishments back then? (unlikely)

I think the better explanation is that JK wanted to just give her some character in the way she spoke to Albus, and show they were on very close terms.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.