Because I am an obsessive Ravenclaw, when I work on a series like Epithalamium, I create a sort of wiki as I go to help me keep track of the pesky details. This wiki includes full biographies of the major characters—it’s sort of like my own Pottermore.
Since my new story in the Epithalamium series, “From Jupiter’s Head,” is largely written from the point of view of Minerva’s father, I thought I’d share my bio of him.
Born: 7 April 1879Died: 15 March 1979Heritage: Pure-blood
Wand: Rowan and unicorn hair, eleven and three-quarter inches, fairly pliantPatronus: Long-eared owl
Height: 6’1”Build: MediumHair: Red, later greyEyes: BrownSkin: Light
Marcus McGonagall (father) †Rona McGonagall (mother) †Morrigan McGonagall (wife)Elisabeth Bones-McGonagall (wife)Minerva McGonagall (daughter)Einar McGonagall (son)Amelia Bones (stepdaughter)Edgar Bones (stepson) †James MacLaughlin (father-in-law) †Morna MacLaughlin (mother-in-law)Albus Dumbledore (son-in-law)Katherine McGonagall (daughter-in-law)Morrigan Gwyneth McGonagall (granddaughter)
Born to Marcus and Rona McGonagall (née Guthrie) in 1879, Thorfinn grew up the only child of an inquisitive and highly educated mother and an affectionate father. Rona McGonagall noticed and encouraged her son’s early curiosity about the world around him and taught him to read at the age of four.
Although Castle Isleif, the McGonagall family home in Caithness, was strongly warded against detection by Muggles, the family often ventured into the nearby villages of John o’ Groats and Duncansby Head, and occasionally the larger town of Thurso, and young Thorfinn was allowed to play with Muggle children from the area. Once he was old enough to control his magic, he was sent to a Muggle primary school for several years until he complained that the pace was too slow, after which his mother and father continued to educate him at home.
Thorfinn attended Hogwarts from 1890 to 1897. His keen intellect ensured that he was sorted into Ravenclaw, and he excelled in his studies, particularly Potions, History of Magic, and Ancient Runes.
An exchange to Beauxbatons Academy of Magic in his third year allowed Thorfinn to perfect his French and to study the history, magical and Muggle, of the region intensively.
In his fifth through seventh years, he was selected as a Ravenclaw prefect. An avid chess player (a passion he passed on to both his children), Thorfinn was a member of the Wizard’s Chess Club, winning the school championship in his fifth year.
One area in which Thorfinn did not excel was flying, and unlike his daughter, he didn’t care much for Quidditch.
Although he was two years ahead of Albus Dumbledore, the two wizards did not know one another well at school; however, Thorfinn was keenly aware of Dumbledore’s many accomplishments and admired the younger boy.
Like Dumbledore would be, Thorfinn was selected by his peers and the faculty of Hogwarts to be the British Youth Representative to the Wizengamot in his sixth year.
After leaving Hogwarts, Thorfinn studied with the magical historian Bathilda Bagshot for two years before embarking on a European tour to study the history of the magical peoples of Europe and to observe how magical and Muggle populations interacted.
At the end of the tour, he wrote his first book, Unnatural Estrangements, a critical survey of European laws governing magical-Muggle relations that grew up in the wake of the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy. Published in 1904, the book was not well received, although historians and other academics praised its thoroughness. Thorfinn’s old mentor, Bathilda Bagshot, told him that, although she agreed with his general criticisms of the various systems of segregating wizarding and Muggle societies, she thought his specific prescriptions for change were “naïve and overly optimistic,” an assessment he would eventually come to agree with.
Undaunted, Thorfinn continued to study history and society, and his second book, Man, Magic, and Myth in Europe (published in 1909), which examined the way European Muggles interpolated magical history into their mythologies, proved more popular among both academics and the general public, although it was by no means a bestseller.
It was during his research for a planned third book (which never came to fruition) on the integration of wizarding and Muggle communities in the pre-Celtic Hebridean islands that Thorfinn met the witch who would become his first wife.
In the summer of 1915, while conducting research on the Isle of Mull, Thorfinn was hit by a powerful Stunning Spell as he was exploring the crannogs there, looking for signs of magical activity.
He woke the following day to find a young woman sitting near his bed. She introduced herself as Morrigan MacLaughlin and apologized for Stunning him. She told him there had been reports of Dark activity around the islands, and that she had been surprised to find a stranger with a wand poking around the most magical part of Mull, on which the Abercrombies (from whom Morrigan was descended) were the only known magical family.
Once he had explained his presence on the island, Morrigan and her mother and father, James and Morna MacLaughlin, insisted Thorfinn stay with them for several days to recuperate fully from the Stunning and to further explore the crannogs. Over the course of three days, Thorfinn became better acquainted with the eighteen-year-old witch and found they shared a love of literature and music. By the time he departed for Caithness, Thorfinn was smitten.
The two saw one another frequently in the ensuing three years, as the escalation of the Muggle war (World War I) made travel outside the British Isles difficult. However, Thorfinn was reluctant to ask her to marry him, as she was young, and it had become clear to him that Morrigan was a powerful witch. Thorfinn did not want to stifle her development by isolating her in Caithness with a large house and a family to care for. At the end of the Muggle war, when travel became less difficult, Morrigan undertook with her mother a European tour like the one Thorfinn had experienced after leaving Hogwarts. During her absence, Thorfinn found that he missed her terribly, and when she returned, he was devastated to find that she had taken up with an Italian wizard, who had asked for her hand.
Realizing that she was still in love with Thorfinn, Morrigan broke off her engagement to the Italian. Frightened at having nearly lost her, Thorfinn proposed immediately, and the pair were married at the McGonagall family home in Caithness, where they lived with the ailing Marcus McGonagall until his death the following year.
The couple travelled extensively between 1923 and 1925, taking trips to Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and Spain before Morrigan discovered she was pregnant in the spring of 1925.
Minerva Sigrid Aithne McGonagall was born on 4 October 1925. Thorfinn was immediately besotted by his daughter, who showed early signs of being every bit as powerful as her mother. He delighted in playing with little Minerva and began teaching her to read and to speak French and German from the time she first began to talk.
During this time, he continued to work on a book he had begun shortly after returning from his and Morrigan’s travels; however, the birth of a second child and a subsequent tragedy forced him to put it aside for several years.
Thorfinn was delighted when Morrigan told him they were expecting another baby. His joy turned to grief, however, when Morrigan died of complications of childbirth on 1 December, three days after giving birth to a son, Einar Drusus Alpin McGonagall.
Sick with grief, Thorfinn blamed himself for his wife’s death and was for a time unable to cope with raising two small children. During this period, his wife’s mother, who had once again come to Caithness for the birth of her grandchild, cared for four-year-old Minerva and baby Einar.
After some months, Thorfinn began to recover himself, and with help from his mother-in-law, Morna MacLaughlin, he once again took charge of his children’s rearing.
Being a widowed father of two bright, active children, Thorfinn had little time for his own research and writing, but he was happy to put it aside to devote himself fully to Minerva’s and Einar’s education.
Like Marcus McGonagall before him, Thorfinn was a loving, affectionate father, but he had high expectations for both his children, and each would go on to make him proud.
Minerva eventually followed in her father’s academic footsteps (albeit in a different field), while Einar, who shared his father’s infatuation with Muggle society, chose a more conventional career in the Ministry of Magic’s Muggle Liaison Office.
In 1945, Thorfinn met Elisabeth Bones (née Cadwallader), the widowed mother of Minerva’s friend and companion in Auror training, Amelia Bones, after both young women were injured during an operation in the Ardennes Forest. He was immediately attracted to the beautiful witch and found to his delight that she was kind and intelligent, and possessed a wicked wit combined with a pragmatism that reminded him of his first wife, although he never told her so.
The two carried on a quiet love affair, to Amelia’s delight and Minerva’s initial discomfort (although she ultimately approved of the match). When in 1946 Elisabeth discovered she had breast cancer, she and Thorfinn married, Thorfinn telling Minerva that he was prepared to help his wife die, but that in the meantime, he intended to see that she lived. Elisabeth died at home in Caithness in November 1947.
Once again a widower, this time with grown children, Thorfinn turned his attention back to his work, and in 1955, he edited A Common Destiny: The Future of Magical and Muggle Relations, which examined the potential benefits and risks of increased interaction and cooperation between the two groups. A number of experts in various areas contributed to the book, including Minerva, who co-wrote a chapter on science with Muggle-born scientist Rosalind Franklin. Einar contributed an essay on managing Muggle exposures to magic. Once again, Thorfinn’s book was well-received by many academics, and although its tone was less radical than his first book, it caused consternation in more conservative wizarding circles, where the incipient bigotry that infected a vocal minority of pure-blood society was once again gaining traction.
In the autumn of 1956, Thorfinn became a grandfather when Einar and his wife, Katherine, had a little girl whom they named Morrigan Gwyneth, and he was often a guest in their home outside Inverness.
When Minerva gave up a promising research career at Mallory College (the magical constituent of Oxford University’s colleges) to teach Transfiguration at Hogwarts, Thorfinn was worried but supportive. He was concerned about her motives for the change but kept his concerns to himself.
He was surprised but ultimately pleased when Minerva told him of her intention to marry Albus Dumbledore, whom he had suspected she had loved for many years, and he was delighted to stand up with his daughter when she wed Dumbledore in a quiet ceremony at the McGonagall family home on Christmas Eve, 1957.
Morna MacLaughlin died in 1961, leaving Thorfinn alone in the large house in Caithness. Having cared for his mother-in-law over the final year of her illness, Thorfinn was now free to travel once again, and he made trips to Russia to observe the effects of the Muggle regime on the country’s wizarding community, and for the first time travelled to the Middle East, including Persia, Mesopotamia, and Egypt.
In October 1967, Thorfinn rushed to St Mungo’s after receiving an owl from Dumbledore saying that Minerva was gravely ill after having delivered a stillborn baby boy. By the time Thorfinn arrived, Minerva was out of danger, and he provided comfort to the bereaved couple. Remembering his feelings of guilt after Morrigan’s death, he had a talk with Dumbledore to reassure him that he was not at fault for the baby’s death or his wife’s illness.
A neurological disorder began to slow Thorfinn down in the 1970s, although he still contributed articles and monographs to various scholarly publications.
In 1975, Einar and Katherine moved into the McGonagall family home to be near Thorfinn, and Minerva visited whenever she could, although her visits became less frequent as the Order of the Phoenix took up increasing amounts of her time.
Despite his infirmity, Thorfinn remained active, and he was an outspoken critic of the self-proclaimed Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters. Disgusted with the apparent collusion of many of his fellow pure-bloods with Voldemort, he wrote numerous opinion pieces in the Daily Prophet urging them to resist what he termed the “siren song of blood prejudice” and declare publicly and firmly against Voldemort and all he stood for.
On 15 March 1979, he was attacked at the Southhampton Apparition point while waiting for Einar to appear to provide him with a cross-Channel Side-Along Apparition to France for a meeting of the European Magical Historical Society. The only potential witness was the immigration official manning the Apparition point, however, he was Stunned before he could identify the wizard who would cast the curse that would kill Thorfinn. Minerva and Einar were never to discover that Melchior Yaxley was their father’s murderer.
Thorfinn McGonagall was buried in the small graveyard on the Castle Isleif grounds.
As a young man, Thorfinn was tall and fit, of medium build, clean-shaven with curly red hair and large brown eyes. As he grew older, he thickened around the middle and sported a short beard. He had a full head of hair until the day he died, which had greyed considerably in his middle years.
He usually wore simple wizard’s robes or, if he were among Muggles, a kilt and sporran.
Thorfinn was affable and good-natured, with a quick wit and good sense of humour. He was warmly affectionate with his family and loved them deeply. A man of scholarly bent, Thorfinn was less interested in magic for its own sake than in its origins and effects on society.
Castle Isleif, the McGonagall family home, became Thorfinn’s upon the death of his father in 1923. It was a small, plainvery old castle, which had originally been built in the late medieval period and added on to in the centuries since.
Thorfinn was adept at most practical magic, including charms, basic transfiguration, and magical defence, but his real talents were in the “softer” arts, including rune interpretation and magical history.
He was an avid scholar and read widely in almost every subject.
He spoke fluent French and good German, and was an excellent chess player. He played piano well and sang in a sonorous bass-baritone voice.
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If you haven’t read the series through Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart, there will be some spoilers, so read at your own risk.