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some men just want to watch the world burn

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Avery had a problem. Two, if you wanted to be technical about it: his memory and his boss. In actuality, it boiled down to one thing: he’d forgotten to tell his boss about an important development in a case he’d been assigned.

He supposed he should have been glad that His Lordship had so very kindly deigned to personally assign this case to Avery. Secretly, though, he thought that it was his master’s way of simply ensuring that Avery fucked up yet another semi-important job so that he could be punished for it.

“Just tell him that you’ve been busy focusing on the latest trouble with the resistance case, and you were helping Rowle,” was the helpful advice that Nott had imparted before beating a hasty retreat back to his warm, dry office. “He probably won’t kill you for that.”

Avery, however, thought that this was unlikely to go over well with their master, and that Nott, a particular favourite and someone who had had very few fuck-ups in his career as a death-eater, would probably have fared better with this excuse than Avery would if he tried it.

Instead, he was left scrambling for some sort of explanation that wouldn’t lead to him being AK’d on the spot as he headed off towards his meeting, and he doubted that the truth would go over particularly well with either his master, or Yaxley, whom Avery suspected had been dripping poison into their master’s ear where Avery and his job performance were concerned.

By the Gods, did he hate that man with a passion.

He rushed down the hall, moving as quickly as he could without running, and attempting to look at least semi-dignified, though Avery knew that dignity would not do him much good when facing their Lord. He passed a few frazzled-looking ministry employees who seemed to be frantically riffling through a stack of papers that kept rearranging itself whenever they found something they were looking for.

If Avery had been a superstitious man, he might have thought that the ministry complex itself was cursed, and slowly but surely fighting back against those it perceived to be invaders. What with the way random doors opened and shut and some led off to nowhere, the way any files and paperwork seemed to rearrange itself to make it virtually impossible to find anything, or the way the plumbing blew up like clockwork every Tuesday afternoon, flooding the entirety of the Magical Law Enforcement Department, something which Avery and his colleagues ended up having to clear up like clockwork too, lest they wanted to face the wrath of Yaxley and his intolerable complaining. And they never had found those three officials who walked through that one particular doorway and were never seen again.

Scratch that, after the vanishing officials’ incident, Avery had most definitely become a superstitious man. He was still reluctant to pass through doorways in the Department of Mysteries for fear of not returning. Nott, of course, had chalked the whole thing up to defensive spells, but Avery still wasn’t convinced that Dumbledore and Scrimgeour and Moody, and every other powerful wizard they’d killed in their pursuit of power, weren’t haunting the place.

He snapped out of his morbid thoughts as he approached the Courtrooms. Honestly, why Yaxley and his lord had insisted they have this meeting here, he didn’t understand. The place creeped Avery out, and not just because of the two hundred or so dementors hovering only fifty feet above their heads, held back only by that vile woman’s patronus (a cat, which wasn’t particularly surprising, given her apparent love of the creatures as demonstrated by the hundreds of rather creepy pictures on the walls of her office).

As soon as Avery stepped into the forum, the temperature seemed to drop by ten degrees, and a shiver went down his spine. He had to consciously stop himself from tilting his head upwards to look at the literal manifestations of death floating above his head, and Gods, wasn’t that a terrifying thought. He congratulated himself for not fleeing the room instantly, as his instincts screamed at him to do.

Good to know I have at least some good instincts left, he thought to himself as he approached dais where Yaxley and his Lord were waiting for him.

He waited for them to conclude their conversation and watched as Yaxley dipped his head in ascension at something their master had said. He was curious as to the words that had been exchanged between the two men, but he knew better than to eavesdrop. The last to have done so had found himself unable to hear anything except the gurgle of his own stomach after their Lord had found fit to remove the eavesdropper’s ears and shove them down his throat.

Avery’s own throat tightened at the thought, and he swallowed, trying to relieve some of the tension there, and looked down at his shoes, waiting for the two men to focus their attention on him. If he survived this encounter, he’d probably best invest in a new pair of shoes, he thought, noting the frayed laces and the way the sole of his shoes was peeling away from the rest of it. Perhaps that nice leather pair he’d noticed at that new ‘Rustic Robes’ shop that had opened up just off Diagon Alley. He’d treat himself, a reminder to enjoy life while he still could, preferably before his Lord decided Avery was a liability had Yaxley dispose of him.

Someone cleared their throat, drawing Avery out of his thoughts, and looked up to where Yaxley and his Lord were standing before him, noting the smirk that spread slowly across Yaxley’s face, like molasses over a cake. The thought had Avery’s stomach rumbling, reminding him that he’d missed lunch.

He diverted his attention away from Yaxley, and instead turned his gaze towards their Lord, who was looking at Avery like he was a fly that had been buzzing around and decided to land in his soup. Avery swallowed. Whatever this was about, it couldn’t be good.

“Ahh, Avery, how kind of you to join us,” his Lord greeted him as Avery stepped forward to bow and kiss his master’s hand, that strange, rasping voice of his still managing to make all the hairs on Avery’s arms stand up, despite how many times Avery had heard it.

His Lord gestured for him to sit on the tall, wooden chair that had been placed on the middle of the amphitheatre-like courtroom. He’d always wondered why the chair had been placed there in particular, but now, sitting in it himself, with his Lord, Yaxley, and a few of his fellow death-eaters surrounding him, above him, looking down upon him, and feeling very small and insignificant and powerless, Avery finally understood.

“As you all know, I do not normally bother to deal with departmental matters,” his Lord said, his words dripping with sarcasm, which elicited awkward laughter from those assembled in the room.

Avery kept quiet.

“However, it has come to my attention that there are some things that have been overlooked. For instance, our friend here, Avery, has shown an incredible lack of intelligence and a formidable amount of incompetence over the last few months.”

“I have, of course, excused him twice before, but I believe we have finally reached the point of no return.”

Avery wanted to protest, to argue, to proclaim his innocence. He knew that he wasn’t the only one in the department who had been vexed by the resistance and their plans, who had been fooled by Potter and his compatriots during their riots and break-ins and plotting. He wanted to point out that Yaxley had been the one to let Potter so carelessly slip through their fingers last time.

Instead, he kept his mouth shut, knowing that it would do no good. He’d been resigned to his fate the moment he’d stepped into the ministry that morning.

“And now, it seems, he has been consorting with the enemy. Correspondence found, in his desk, between him and the mudblood resistance leader, letters detailing our plans, our strengths, our movements.”

Avery’s eyebrows quirked up in confusion. What was he on about? Of all the stupid things Avery had done in his life, conspiring with mudbloods and traitors wasn’t one of them. He was fairly sure he’d remember doing something like that. He was aware that his Lord was still speaking, dribbling on about traitors and spies and some such nonsense, but Avery was more concerned with what he’d just been accused of.

Letters had apparently been found in his desk, and Avery thought of how easy it would be for someone, anyone, to plant letters in his desk. And he wasn’t sure how he would be able to pass on any kind of sensitive information given that he hadn’t been trusted or allowed anywhere near anything that was even vaguely secret in content.

And suddenly, he realised that one of two things must have happened: a mistake had been made, unlikely as it was, or he’d been deliberately, and very cleverly, set-up.

He opened his mouth to respond, to say that there had been some kind of mistake, that he’d been framed.

The last thing he saw was a flash of green light.