The Harry Potter universe is detailed, elaborate, and so real to everyone who grew up with the books and films — however, sometimes it doesn’t make total sense. And we’re not talking about the magic, dragons, and secret schools for wizards.
That’s the case with a beloved Hogwarts professor’s cameo in the Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. The surprise appearance is especially confusing because the teacher in question wouldn’t have even been born yet.
Warning: this story contains minor spoilers.
The Fantastic Beasts sequel takes place in 1927, but the scene in question is a flashback to even earlier when Newt Scamander and Leta Lestrange were schoolmates at Hogwarts together. In the scene, Lestrange is being disciplined for cursing two students who were discussing her family (even then, the Lestranges were quite infamous), and the teacher doling out the punishment is none other than...Professor Minerva McGonagall.
Based on several details from the original Harry Potter series, Potterheads were able to determine that McGonagall would have been born in the 1930s. J.K. Rowling has never said the exact year McGonagall was born, but fans were able to crack the mystery given how long she has worked at Hogwarts. When questioned by Professor Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, McGonagall says that she had been teaching at the school for 39 years. As the fifth book in the series, that would have been the school year of 1995 to 1996, *quickly pulls up the calculator on iPhone* meaning her first year as a professor would have been 1956. So, how could she have been there for a flashback that took place before 1927? Easy: she couldn’t have.
If McGonagall was at Hogwarts while Newt Scamander and Leta Lestrange were students, then she would have been there when Tom Riddle attended in the early 1940s. But according to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore was teaching Transfiguration when Riddle was at Hogwarts — and Dumbledore is also who McGonagall learned her legendary abilities from.
However, during The Crimes of Grindelwald, Dumbledore was teaching another subject: Defense Against the Dark Arts. So unless McGonagall taught something else when Dumbledore began teaching Transfiguration, it’s just another timeline detail that doesn’t make sense.
Ruling out magic as a possible explanation, some fans thought that maybe the Crimes of Grindelwald cameo was actually McGonagall’s grandmother. This was quickly ruled out, however, because according to McGonagall’s Pottermore biography, written by Rowling herself, her grandmother on her father’s side — who carried the McGonagall name — would have been a muggle.
There are three more films set to be released in the Fantastic Beasts series, which means we might get some more clarification down the line. But if Professor McGonagall plays more of a role than the brief cameo she made in Crimes of Grindelwald, Harry Potter fans will just have to ignore the timeline inconsistencies.