Curiosity Killed the Cat by Rob Matthews
Summary: Julia just got a job at the Department of Mysteries, and is forced to spend a night in the Death Chamber as part of an initiation process for new Unspeakables.

This is written for the Harry Hospital Wing Project as a collaboration fanfic of Hufflepuff House.
Categories: Hospital Wing Characters: None
Warnings: Character Death, Suicide
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 2705 Read: 2083 Published: 07/29/06 Updated: 07/30/06

1. Chapter 1 by Rob Matthews

Chapter 1 by Rob Matthews
Author's Notes:
I did not write this fiction. This is a fiction written by ten members of Hufflepuff House as part of our "Joint Fiction." The following are the writers of the fic in no particular order: Foxy Wolf, Gryffinpuff, whatapotter, jules 411, FanficWriterNikki, HP Ber, Loralie, mugglegurl, RedheadedWeasley, and Mornenion.
The place seemed deathly and eerily still this late at night. It was always still nowadays, of course, having been closed for more years than she could remember. Somehow, though, it was far worse at night. Impenetrable black shadows slithered their way between the legs of the great stone benches, gripping and twisting their way to the seats above where they curled into a sinister embrace. A lone spider was precariously balanced on its own spindly thread as it tried, repeatedly, to weave a home between the slabs. The only sound was her own breathing, which even to her own ears was jarringly loud and ragged, echoing desolately through the lonely room.

Julia shivered. There was no breeze, and yet she felt icy touches moving up and down her arm, raising tiny pin-pricks that formed intricate patterns on her skin. The air was permeated with Death. She could feel it, collecting around her, suffocating her. Oh, she’d heard the stories, everyone who worked in the Department had. It was not named the Death Chamber for nothing, after all. She’d always thought it so innocuous, however; a flimsy veil - how could that hold a pathway to the dead? That contempt had earned her the dare to spend the night alone in this place; a common challenge issued to new Unspeakables, she’d learned. Sitting here, Julia couldn’t help but regret her brash acceptance. She could almost feel the shades of the past coalesce around her. Victims of execution, not all of them guilty or rightfully sentenced, she supposed. What must it have been like, she wondered, to be stood here facing that sinisterly fluttering veil, knowing that these were the last few breaths you could ever take? Another icy shudder passing through her, Julia wrapped her arms more securely around herself and hunched over her knees, trying to ignite the last fluttering embers of her courage.

Julia felt she could never be secure in a place like this, even though there was no stench in the air, she felt as though she could smell death itself. Whispers began to reverberate around the room, while Julia stayed rooted to the spot, too afraid to move and too cold to run out.

Suddenly, a light began to shine from the veil. Julia became entranced by it, Could it be growing? Yes, it is, Julia thought as she stared deeper into it. Without warning, the Death Chamber became a ghost chamber, as many people appeared standing around the room. There was a lone man in front of the Veil; he appeared to be restrained by some invisible force.

"William H. Robinson, you have been charged with, and been found guilty of supporting the Dark Lord; Grindelwald," a loud official voice boomed out across the chamber. Julia turned around to see an old wizard, who was holding a scroll of some sort.

"I didn’t do anything of that sort!" the boy at the Veil cried out.

"Silence," the old wizard said firmly, but not loudly, "The Wizengamot has sentenced you to death. Before you are to be executed, do you recognise the overall power of the Ministry of Magic?"

"I always have, I never supported him!" William said, a tear running down his cheek.

"Do you or do you not? Answer the question!"

"I don’t recognise the power of a Ministry who condemns innocents!"

"Very well, Dementors; throw him through."

William was then pulled towards the Veil.

"NOO!!" he screamed out, trying to stop himself from being pulled in.

"God be with you, for no one will be," the old wizard said, as he turned around and walked off.

William’s screams continued, but when he was forced through the Veil, all sound disappeared.

All of the light went back into the Veil, as the ghost people disappeared, and Julia was once again alone in the Death Chamber, very shaken.

So those are the voices calling out to me, she thought. Ghosts of victims lost to the strange, yet powerful, veil.

Thoughts of William also passed through her mind. Was he guilty or not? What was he thinking in his last few moments on Earth?

Julia shivered again. Why did I come down here? Is being an Unspeakable really worth it? But she knew the answer. Yes.

Julia was a curious person, which was half of the reason she wanted to be an Unspeakable. Rumours of the Department of Mysteries were often found in the presses, but Julia was never stupid enough to believe them. She wanted to know what really went on here, and the only way to know for sure was to become an Unspeakable.

Walking shakily through the chamber, keeping away from the sunken stone pit in the center, she started to curse her curiosity.

Her mother's favourite saying flashed through her mind. "Curiosity killed the cat."

The veil started shining again. Once again, the Death Chamber became the ghost chamber, as two figures- a man and woman- appeared fighting. The man was laughing as the woman shot curses at him.

The woman finally hit her target, as the man stumbled backward, into the veil. A boy appeared, being held back by another man. "Sirius! Sirius!" the boy screamed.

As Julia watched the figures disappear, she remembered the rest of that saying, the part her mother always left out.

"But satisfaction brought it back."

Yes, her quest for satisfaction had led her to this moment. To this place haunted with memories of fear and callousness. Julia shuddered involuntarily, sitting down on one of the stone benches while pushing a strand of pale blonde hair behind her ear.

She hated to admit it, but becoming an Unspeakable hadn’t satisfied her curiosity. Even though she was in the Department day and night, she still didn’t understand all that she’d experienced. And she wasn’t the only one. It is the common belief that the workers of the Department of Mysteries are called "Unspeakables" because their jobs are secret, important. In truth, Julia was starting to suspect it had more to do with a lack of knowledge than a desire for secrecy.

The Veil fluttering before her was a perfect example. You only needed to spend a few brief moments in this room to know it was the gateway to death. You could feel its cold, icy grip in the very air. But after all this time, after all their observations and studies, no one was positive where it had came from, or how it was made. No one knew what lay beyond the Veil, or had chanced to look beyond it. Their curiosity, it seemed, had its limits. No wish to push further, deeper into the mysteries of death than through casual examination. This is what set Julia apart from the other recruits. She wasn’t satisfied with benign observation and awed conversation. She always wanted to probe deeper.

Julia’s penchant for discovery wound dangerously in her stomach, beckoning her to explore the Veil more closely. To step onto the alter and gaze through the willowy folds. Her eyes moved higher, gazing, slightly transfixed, at the unseen wind that caused the Veil to stir. You know better than that, Julia scolded herself, turning her body away. Only a fool would journey any closer.

She climbed higher into the room, wanting to distance herself from the temptation. Julia lay down on one of the benches with her back to the Veil. The less she looked at it, the better. As she attempted to get comfortable, she doubted she’d sleep.

A few hours later, she woke. Wow, she thought, all those visions of ghosts must have worn out my psyche. She sat up, and turned around.

She was drawn to the Veil, and she couldn’t help but watch it flutter in the nonexistent wind. Slowly, she rose from the bench, and made her way down the stone steps. She told herself she was crazy, but she couldn’t stop herself. She just had to get a closer look. Julia stepped up onto the dais, and reached her hand toward the Veil.

"Julia! What in Merlin’s name do you think you’re doing?" She vaguely heard a male voice shouting from behind her.

Only a little closer, just a little closer and she would be able to see what was on the other side of the Veil. She would be able to see where those voices were coming from. Suddenly she felt two hands around her waist, pulling her off the dais.

"What were you doing?" Stephen yelled at her. His voice sounded hazy and muffled to her. All she could understand were the voices coming from the Veil. She had to find them, join them. She felt Stephen pulling her away from the Veil. No, she must stay there. She had to find out what it all meant.

"Julia, snap out of it." He began to shake her violently. "Julia!"

"Let me go, Stephen! I’m fine!" She wrenched her wrist away from his grasp and walked back towards the Veil. To her dismay, he took hold of her again, but with a firmer grip this time. She turned on him with her wand drawn. "Let me go, Stephen." She said to him evenly and calmly.

He drew his wand in response. "I’m taking you home, Julia. The dare is over. You aren’t staying here tonight. It is too dangerous. Just come with me and everything will be fine as soon as we get you out of here." His words floated in and out of her ears. The voices beyond the Veil were calling to her. They wanted her to join them and she wanted to join them.

"I’m not leaving with you. I’m fine. I was only trying to get a closer look." The voices were speaking to her, telling her to placate the stranger, or better yet, to bring him with her.

Yes, bring him with her. That would satiate the voices. She could bring Stephen with her, and she wouldn’t be alone. They could learn about what was beyond the Veil together.

"Julia, let’s go," Stephen said in a warning tone. From the corner of her eye, she saw his Patronus shoot out of his wand and disappeared up the stairs. He held her arm tightly, still pulling her off the dais.

"Stephen, I’m fine. I don’t need to go. I’m just taking a closer look – a closer listen," Julia protested, trying to wrench her arm free from his grasp. He pulled her closer to him.

"You can’t get any closer. Any closer and you’ll be gone. I can’t let that happen to you," Stephen protested.

Just then, more voices filled the room. Stephen tightened his hold on Julia, but both of them were searching for the source of the noise.

Across the chamber stood a middle-aged man who was standing next to a very short witch. Julia felt her heart momentarily stop. She knew this woman.

"Julia, we sh--" Julia hushed Stephen. She turned back to the man and woman. Stephen followed her gaze and the colour slowly drained out of his face when he saw the scene in front of him.

"You can't do this to me!" The witch suddenly screamed. She tried to escape, but she was not strong enough to break free.

"No one will know. They'll just think there was an accident while you were doing research. Nothing unusual." The man dragged the woman towards the center of the room. "You ruined everything, Caroline. Either you have to be punished or I do."

Julia shuddered, wishing she could do something to help Caroline. Julia was her best friend. She had to help her in some way!

"Get away from her!" Julia hysterically shouted as she tried to run over to her friend's aide.

Stephen held her back. "Julia, she's already gone. You can't do anything. You know that. Can we go now?"

Julia kept her eyes of the dark grey stones that covered the ground. She slowly nodded her head and followed Stephen to the door.

Stephen reached for the large brass handle on the door, but just as he was about to touch the handle, the door opened.

An elderly man with a kind face entered. "What’s going on here? Whitmore, I saw your Patronus—" The man stopped at the sight of the scene taking place behind Stephen and Julia.

The short witch, Caroline, was screaming as she was being pushed through the deadly veil. Her high pitched shriek was abruptly interrupted and the witch was nowhere to be seen. The room was left dark yet her voice seemed to linger in the air. Julia felt the sound running down her spine sending chills throughout her entire body. Suddenly she slumped to the ground and burst into tears. "Caroline. What happened? I thought it was an accident."

"Croaker, I think it’s time we told her." Stephen said in a low voice. Croaker sighed and nodded his acceptance. Stephen sat down on his heels and softly placed his hand on Julia’s shoulder. "Don’t worry, Julia." He whispered in a comforting tone, "His actions sent him straight to Azkaban. What he did was a terrible treachery against the Ministry and—"

"The Ministry!" Julia interrupted. "To Hell with your sodding Ministry. What about Caroline? Why didn’t you tell me?"

Stephen fell startled on his backside. Croaker stepped over him and took Julia’s hand, helping her to her feet. "Listen, Petersen. We did what we thought was best." He turned around and helped Stephen up. The two men looked at her, their eyes filled with concern.

"We know how much she meant to you." Stephen explained to her. "When we heard about her death you seemed so fragile and unstable. You became obsessed with the Death Chamber and we didn’t want to push you over the edge." Stephen stopped when he realised his choice of words. Julia’s eyes fluttered. She kissed Stephen gingerly on his cheek, turned her back to him and walked towards the dais.

As Stephen and Croaker’s blank stares filled up the space she was leaving behind behind, Julia tried to decide what was going through her mind. Sadness because of what really happened to her friend or relief because she finally realized why she became an Unspeakable? She turned around sharply to face the two boys.

"I’ve always wanted to be an Unspeakable ever since I first read about them, simply because I was curious; curious as to what they did all day, to why they were called such, and what their purpose was," she spoke. "I’ve always believed that knowledge is the greatest thing one can have, and I wanted it all. Born curious, I believe that it is better to know, even if it causes hurt or sadness, than to go on with life obliviously happy with a perception of the truth. You can’t fully experience life unless you are knowledgeable of all aspects of it. My mother… My mother disagreed. She lived her life the careful way ever since my father’s accident. My accident. Like I said, I was curious even as a child, and one day when I was three I came across my father’s wand. I was so intrigued by it, but before my father could take it away, I accidentally shot a spell. A spell that ended him up in St. Mungo’s, and lead on to his death." Silence followed this statement as Julia hesitated, taking a breath. Then she continued, "My mother always told me, ‘Curiosity killed the cat.’ She was never…" Julia trailed off, waited another few seconds, and then started back again, stronger than before. "My mother was never a cat. But I know that I will always be one, and that’s just who I am."

And with that, before Stephen and Croaker could say another word, Julia turned around and ran straight through the Veil with a smile on her face, knowing that she was following her destiny.

This story archived at http://www.mugglenetfanfiction.com/viewstory.php?sid=55353