They say there is a hall in the Department of Mysteries where the incurable remain: the motionless corpses of basilisk victims, frozen in death, a testament to the snakes’ unstoppable venom; rooms and rooms of statues, princes who once dared to cross Celtic sorceresses; and beautiful women buried up to their knees, waists, and heads, their faces twisted in horror, preserving the moment they fell prey to some ancient curse. There are hacked and ill-reassembled men who had their swords enchanted against their own limbs. In wide pens are hens that once were fine ladies, and eternally slumbering dogs dreaming the dreams of country squires who foolishly trespassed on a witch’s land.
The children speak of this hall. Adults laugh, and say it does not exist. But if you could sneak in and wander from exhibit to exhibit, upending drawers and pressing your nose to the cases of this strange gallery, you might very well find odd mummies bent in pain; and the remains of people who seem similar to us, but perhaps not quite human, ice figures with swords drawn, sleeping away the centuries in mysterious iron boxes.
The business of the Department of Mysteries is, after all, mysteries. And so it is not simply a secret government collective. It has become, in its own way, something like a hidden museum.
Only the very lucky — and the very unlucky — are granted admission.