The Department of Mysteries was a section of the Ministry of Magic that carried out confidential research. Most of its operations were carried out in total secrecy. Few wizards within the Ministry actually knew what was located within this department. Various mysteries of the world were studied there, including love, space, thought, time, death, and others. Wizards who worked in the Department of Mysteries were known as Unspeakables because of the confidential nature of their work.
Due to the highly classified nature of this department, it was granted a great deal of independence, being the only one within the entire Ministry that did not need to answer to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Even the Minister for Magic had very little authority over the department's operations, as the fifteenth Minister's attempt to shut down the branch was ignored by the Unspeakables.
- "They were standing in a large, circular room. Everything in here was black including the floor and ceiling — identical, unmarked, handle-less black doors were set at intervals all around the black walls, interspersed with branches of candles whose flames burned blue, their cool, shimmering light reflected in the shining marble floor so that it looked as though there was dark water underfoot."
- — Description of the Department of Mysteries[src]
The Department of Mysteries lay on the second-lowest level of the Ministry of Magic, Level Nine. It was accessible via the lifts from the Ministry Atrium. This level bore a striking difference to those above: the black-tiled walls were bare with no windows and no doors, apart from a plain black one at the end of the corridor that led into the Department proper. Light was provided only by torches, which glowed with a blue-white light. A small flight of steps to the left led to Level Ten.
Behind the black door was the Entrance Chamber, which was designed to disorient any unauthorised personnel who entered it. It was a circular room with a dark marble floor that looked almost like standing water, candles emitting a cool blue light, and twelve handleless doors. Whenever a door closed, the walls rotated, making it impossible to determine which door was which. This chamber would respond to a verbal request for an exit by the opening of the correct door.
The Department of Mysteries was established sometime in or before the 17th century, actually predating the Ministry of Magic, which was only established in 1707. It was in activity since at least 1672, since there were records of intensive studies from this Department, dating as far back as that year, demonstrating that wizards and witches were born, not created.
Minister Ottaline Gambol (term of office 1827-1835) was known to establish committees to investigate Muggle brainpower which seemed, due to the emergence of the British Empire, to be greater than some wizards had credited. It is unknown if these investigations were conducted by the Department of Mysteries, but the Department did contain a room devoted to the study of thought.
In 1835-1841, Minister Radolphus Lestrange took a reactionary position, and attempted to close down the Department of Mysteries. He was ignored, however, by the Unspeakables and the rest of the Ministry.
In the 1890s, the Department of Mysteries was known to have conducted time-travel experiments. These experiments were discontinued in 1899, when Unspeakable Eloise Mintumble travelled back in time to the year 1402 and there was a major breach of the laws of time, with catastrophic results. For one, Madam Mintumble was stuck in the 15th century for five days, and when she was finally retrieved to the present, her body had aged five centuries and she later succumbed in St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. Also, there were at least twenty-five people (all of them descendants of people Mintumble had met in the past) who vanished into thin air, effectively becoming un-born. Finally, the Tuesday that followed the ordeal lasted two and a half full days, while the following Thursday lasted only four hours.
During Lord Voldemort's first reign of power, he implanted Augustus Rookwood into the Department of Mysteries as a spy. When Voldemort first fell, Rookwood was turned in by turncoat Death Eater Igor Karkaroff, and was sentenced to life in Azkaban for exposing the Department's confidential experiments to the Dark Lord.
Second Wizarding War
Battle of the Department of Mysteries (1996)
- "Voldemort knows you, Harry! He took Ginny down into the Chamber of Secrets to lure you there, it’s the kind of thing he does, he knows you’re the — the sort of person who’d go to Sirius’s aid! What if he’s just trying to get you into the Department of Myst —?"
- — Voldemort lures Harry Potter into the Ministry[src]
In 1996, Lord Voldemort had his Death Eaters attempt to steal the above mentioned prophecy. After two failed attempts, Voldemort lured Harry Potter and five of his friends there by planting a vision of his godfather being tortured into his mind. Harry, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Neville Longbottom, Ginny Weasley, and Luna Lovegood flew to the Ministry, where they were confronted by twelve Death Eaters.
The six members of Dumbledore's Army managed to distract their attackers and flee, scattering throughout the Department of Mysteries and combating the Dark Wizards who pursued them. The Order of the Phoenix soon arrived, saving the teenagers but losing one of their own, Sirius Black, murdered by his own cousin Bellatrix Lestrange, who pushed him through the veil.
Luna Lovegood – probably influenced by an article in The Quibbler — once stated that Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge "uses the Department of Mysteries to develop terrible poisons, which he secretly feeds to anybody who disagrees with him". There is no proof that this is true.
Under Voldemort's control (1997-1998)
- "Recent research undertaken by the Department of Mysteries reveals that magic can only be passed from person to person when Wizards reproduce. Where no proven Wizarding ancestry exists, therefore, the so-called Muggle-born is likely to have obtained magical power by theft or force."
- — Daily Prophet article in August 1997[src]
On 1 August, 1997, the Ministry of Magic fell under Voldemort's control, with Imperiused Pius Thicknesse the new puppet Minister for Magic. In line with the Death Eaters' ideology about blood purity, the Ministry began distributing anti-Muggle and Muggle-born propaganda, based on research allegedly conducted by the Department of Mysteries. Muggle-borns were forced to register with the Muggle-Born Registration Commission, which convicted them of having stolen magic from "real" wizards and witches, and sent them to Azkaban.
Since this was not factually true, it is likely that this "research" either did not exist at all or was strongly skewed in order to support false conclusions. Unspeakables may have been intimidated into doing this, as many were shown to be terrified and under surveillance while the Ministry was under Death Eater control. Despite the clear ludicrousness of such "research", the public nevertheless followed suit, and Muggle-borns were rounded up.
The Department apparently worked to uncover the secrets of death, time, space, thought, and love, among other things, and recorded prophecies whenever they were made. It included the following known chambers:
This long, rectangular room was lit by low-hanging lamps. It contained a tank of encephala, or brains, that swam in a green solution. These particular brains were highly aggressive and would attack and constrict anything that tried to touch them or pick them up, as was the case with Ron Weasley. The tendrils that the brains possessed were implied to be physical manifestations of thoughts. The concept of thought and all related subjects were studied in this chamber.
Hall of Prophecy
Records of prophecies were stored in this long, cold chamber with high ceilings and towering shelves lit with blue-flame candles. These prophecies, held in glass orbs, were magically protected, so that the only people who could lift them off their stand were the Keeper of the Hall of Prophecies and the subject(s) of the individual prophecy. Anyone else who attempts to inspect the orbs with their hands would be afflicted with instant madness.
Alas, during the battle that took place within the Department of Mysteries in 1996, the six Dumbledore's Army members used Reductor Curses to smash the shelves of prophecies in order to distract the Death Eaters, and destroyed a great number of prophecies in the Hall as a result.
- "The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives...The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies..."
- — Sybill Trelawney's first prophecy[src]
A year before Lily and James Potter were murdered by Lord Voldemort, the seer Sybill Trelawney made a prophecy involving Voldemort and a child who would come to be his destroyer. After his return, Voldemort sought to know the entire prophecy and lured Harry and other members of Dumbledore's Army to the Hall in attempt to steal and confirm the contents of the orb. Due to the incompetency and failures of the Death Eaters, the orb was shattered in a commotion that prevented anyone from listening to the contents. However, Harry was able to hear the prophecy from the Pensieve in Albus Dumbledore's office, since Trelawney made the original to Dumbledore himself.
During the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange destroyed, accidentally, two prophecies while talking to Harry Potter. The first one was made by a male seer and it was about something "new" that would come at the Solstice. The second one was made by a female seer and it was about "none will come after" something unknown.
This large, square room somewhat resembled Courtroom Ten of the Wizengamot. It was dimly lit, with stone tiers leading down to a pit in the centre. In this pit was a dais, upon which stood a very old stone archway with a tattered black curtain hanging from it. This arch incorporated the Veil, which separated the worlds of the living and the dead. Some people, such as Harry Potter and Luna Lovegood, heard voices through the Veil.
Sirius Black fell through the archway during the Battle of the Department of Mysteries after being struck by a curse from his own cousin Bellatrix Lestrange, and subsequently died. His body was never recovered, as it had vanished inside the veil.
This room was behind a door that remained locked at all times and which could not be unlocked by Alohomora or magical unlocking penknives. According to Dumbledore, behind the door was the most mysterious subject of study of the department, and the most powerful force ever to exist in the universe — which was known as "Love".
It could also be used in attempts to understand and duplicate the magical protection self-sacrificing love created, the only magic strong enough to repel the Killing Curse. There was said to be a large fountain of Amortentia (the most powerful love potion in existence) in the room.
This was a dark room full of planets floating in mid-air. Presumably, it was from this Chamber where Wizards studied the aspect of space, as it was one of the limits of magic (along with time). Visitors could find themselves floating as well. Luna Lovegood deemed it "a very odd place" and used the Reductor Curse on the Pluto replica to block an attacking Death Eater during the Battle of the Department of Mysteries.
This long, rectangular room was filled with a beautiful, dancing light that sparkled like gems. All kinds of time-related devices completely filled the chamber, such as clocks of every description, and Time-Turners. It also contained a large crystal bell jar at its far end, from which the sparking light came. Inside the jar, anything would grow increasingly younger, to its pre-life state, be reborn to grow older, and cycle through endlessly.
At the end of the room there was a door that led into the Hall of Prophecies. There were also small offices just off the main chamber, in which Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Neville Longbottom faced two Death Eaters during the Battle of the Department of Mysteries. During this battle, the department's entire stock of Time-Turners was smashed.
It can be assumed that study in the time room led to the discovery and creation of the ability to magically manipulate time through Time-Turners.
- Levina Monkstanley (c. 1772)
- Broderick Bode (deceased)
- Saul Croaker
- Augustus Rookwood (Death Eater spy)
- Unidentified intern (disappeared within the Department before early 1995)
- The Keeper of the Hall of Prophecy
- Eloise Mintumble
Behind the scenes
- The name of the department may be an allusion to the Mysteries of the Ancient Greek and Roman religions, in which admission and knowledge was restricted through arcane initiation rites. The word "mystery" literally means "initiation." The Eleusinian Mysteries were the most famous and important of these.
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (First mentioned)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (film) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (Exterior hallway only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (video game) (Exterior hallway only)
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Mentioned only)
- Wizarding World
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
- Harry Potter for Kinect
- Harry Potter: Wizards Unite (Mentioned only)
Notes and references
- The Tales of Beedle the Bard - Albus Dumbledore on "Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump"
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 7 (Bagman and Crouch)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
- Writing by J. K. Rowling: "Ministers for Magic" at Wizarding World
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film) - Chapter 26 (The Department of Mysteries)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 7 (The Ministry of Magic)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 34 (The Department of Mysteries)
- Pottermore - New From J.K. Rowling: Time-Turner
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- Mystery cult on Wikipedia