„Why wasn´t this brought to my attention before?"

The question left behind an awkward silence. The assembled witches and wizards seemed to hold their breath. The occasional twittering of birds from the surrounding forrest was almost hurtful.

"The sausages are ready! Anyone a sausage?"

Goyle was in charge of the barbecue and clearly hadn´t heard the question. He knew something was wrong when nobody answered his inquiry and didn´t repeat it. Instead he stared at their furious leader like the others.

Unlike common belief, deatheaters didn´t love the dark and damp. As much as the Dark Lord esteemed exposing his enemies to it – and his servants for punishment – as much he appreciated an agreeable atmosphere for living himself. Thus the meeting at the shore of the small lake this day. To be honest it was one of his favorite meeting points with his most faithful servants. The surrounding woods made the place almost peaceful, the shore was spaceful enough for a picnic and barbecue and the lake offered the possibility of a bath on a hot summer day. Voldemort loved spending a lazy afternoon in this place, plotting their next move over a nice piece of roast meat and tomatoe salad.

Like always, they had been chatting while they waited for the meal to be ready. Bellatrix had entertained them with a report of her latest attack on a ministry employee. The woman had one wicked brain. Her inventiveness in torture was legend among her comrades and Voldemort had to admit that – hadn´t she decided to devote her life to serving him – she´d had the potential to become a Dark Lady herself. The only thing to stand in her way to power was her readiness to serve instead of rule, her eagerness to be presented with power instead of claiming it.

Shortly after the end of Bellatrix´ tale, Snape had arrived. A bit late, like always. Murmuring an apology about Hogwarts business and needing to escape Dumbledore without arising the man´s suspision. Like always, the apology had been accepted with a nod. The information Snape brought from the old fool´s headquarters were far too valuable to resent a bit of tardiness for dinner against him. Like always, the man settled on a chequered blanket in his black robes, not even taking off his shoes. He looked like a raven among songbirds. The assembled group had changed into bathing clothes or at least casual beach wear, but not Snape. He never did, no matter how hot the day was.

Voldemort shuddered. Snape must really suffer under those robes. He – Voldemort – himself wore shorts and a crimson T-shirt. He´d have prefered bathing clothes for the heat´s sake, but since his resurrection he didn´t feel very comfortable about his body. The new one lacked the handsomeness of the old.

Lucius had made a snide remark about Snape´s tardiness. Lucius. Always envious of Snape´s position as a spy for it granted the potions master his lord´s favour. As if Lucius had it in him to do Dumbledore´s bidding, even if it was only lip-service. Ridiculous. Lucius lacked Snape´s slyness and cunning. Not to speak of Snape´s natural taciturnity, which kept people from fraternizing with him and made it easy for him to avoid slipping. No, Snape was the ideal spy and Lucius knew. Nevertheless, Malfoy had made a habit of pointing out the potions masters minor mistakes as if to remind his lord that the man was far from perfection.

It had been this snide remark, which had brought up the topic. Snape had retaliated with his sharp tongue – a weapon of its own. Lucius hadn´t been in a mood to retreat and soon the two man had been immersed in a childish quarrel.

Voldemort let it happen as it was quite entertaining. The others, but Goyle, had followed the exchange with amusement. Until that momentuous sentence was spoken.

"You know very well that there is no such thing."

Silence had fallen and the amusement had left the faces. Instead there was concern and fear. Everyone turned to face their Dark Lord, anxious to see how he´d react.

„Why wasn´t this brought to my attention before?"

Cold fury flooded his system. Why didn´t anybody tell him? They were supposed to be his most faithful!

There was some awkward shuffling. At last it was Snape to speak up.

"We thought the matter was not of significant importance to bother your lordship with it."

"Not important? But everybody has one!"

"I don´t." Lucius.

"Me neither." Pettigrew.

"How dare you to imply that you were anywhere near my league!" Voldemort spat. "I´ll correct my statement. Everbody of importance has one!"

"And even some of none." Snape.

"What do you mean by that."

"Bellatrix has one."

"What? Is this true?"

The woman didn´t dare to look in his eyes. Hesitantly she nodded.

"Since when?"

"Shortly after we escaped from Azkaban."

"We? The others got one too?" Voldemort was close to shouting.

"Yes, Lord. The whole group, who escaped, and Barty."

"Barty!" He was shouting now. "Barty has not even a soul!"

"That is mentioned." Snape again. Merlin, the man knew how to add fuel to the flames.

"Why don´t I have one? Am I of no importance?" He could hardly resist the urge to crucio them all for withholding this piece of information from him for so long.

"Perhaps they don´t have a becoming foto." Snape again. Useful or not, he was going to strangle the man if he said one more word. Like always, Snape knew how far he could go. He smirked apologetically – who else could put that into a smirk of all things – scrambled to his feet and went over to Goyle to examine the barbecue.

Voldemort stared at his allies, no his servants, in anger.

"Maybe we could send them a foto?"

It was too much. Voldemort let his rage flow freely and Pettigrew twitched on the ground in agony. He lifted his cruciatus only when the idiot had screamed himself hoarse. "Any more stupid suggestions?" He panted.

"We could capture one of the persons responsible and talk to them." Snape handed him a plate with a steak and a baked potatoe with sour cream, exactly as he liked it. Then the man settled back down on his blanket with his own plate.

"A reasonable proposal." Voldemort settled down, too, and accepted a small bowl of tomatoe salad from Goyle. He started to think about the text he´d like, while one after the other of his deatheaters stepped to the barbecue to get themselves a meal, now that his tantrum was over.

He watched the group while he chewed on a forkful of steak. Slowly the cheerfulness returned into the faces. He turned to see Snape sneer at Pettigrew. For what must be the hundreth time he asked himself whether the man had been manipulating him. It was a well-known fact that the potions master hated Pettigrew. Snape must have felt his master´s eyes on him. When he turned to meet them, there was nothing other than devotion in his eyes.

He patted the blanket beside him. "Come over, Severus. You seem to be more reasonable than certain other persons in this circle." Snape obeyed. "And you, Lucius." Malfoy joined them, obviously glad that he wasn´t left out. He was the Dark Lord´s public relations expert after all.

"So, what are we going to do about my chocolate frog card?"