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Like Fireflies in a Jar

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Crossover with X-Files. Remix of Unexamined Assmuptions by Phoebe Zeitgeist "And the brother?" "Is a doctor in Tokyo. Nothing special."

***

"It is my pleasure to make your acquaintance," Severus Snape murmured smoothly, bowing at the waist, as he had been told was local custom. "My Master sends his greetings, and thanks you for your generosity in sharing with him your expertise on the matter of curse scars."

Kazutaki Muraki returned the bow - although in his case it was more of a nod, really- wiping his hands with a white handkerchief. A dark stain bloomed across the formerly pristine fabric, and Snape politely averted his eyes, focusing instead on the other man's face. He had been schooled thoroughly on Muraki's proclivities before coming to Japan, and didn't want to think about what he might have interrupted … as he'd been standing in the foyer, politely waiting to be shown in, there had been another man - tall, with graying hair, smoking a foul-smelling Muggle cigarette - who'd breezed past him, just walked right in as if he owned the place. Nearly an hour had passed, and the man hadn't come back out. Not that Snape cared about the random stranger, but it might be worth mentioning in his report.

The eyes behind the lenses of Muraki's glasses were of no particular color, but there was a darkness at the center of them that might have given anyone but one of Voldemort's top Death Eaters a chill. "It is not a matter of generosity," he replied. His voice was silky, seductive. "I have something you need, you have something I need. It is a matter of practicality." He turned, indicating the large glass tank behind him, as if Snape could have possibly missed it when he first entered the room.

"Do you like it?" Muraki ran his fingers down the glass, pooling condensation under the tips. The wet droplets took on a pinkish glow. "They thought they had taken him from me, but I found him," he crooned. "I keep what is mine. They won't try again." He cocked his head and looked up lovingly at the bodiless head floating before him, its pale face and unseeing eyes surrounded by an unearthly curtain of hair, weightless in the vat of green liquid. It wasn't the strangest thing Snape had ever seen, nor was it the goriest, but he thought it might certainly rank as one of the most disturbing.

"I wonder, sometimes, if he knows he is dreaming." Muraki's lips curved in a cruel parody of a smile. "Such bright little thoughts, caught there in his mind, like fireflies in a jar. I will ask him that first, I think, when he wakes: if he dreamed of me."

Snape stood another moment in silence, then cleared his throat, brusquely. As much as he didn't want to provoke his host, he didn't have all night to stand around while the Doctor reminisced. The sound was enough to snap the other man back to attention, and Muraki finally noticed the photograph in Snape's hand. He took it and studied it for a long moment, tracing the outer edge of it with a slender finger. Potter looked annoyed, and tried to sidle out of the frame on the other side. Snape caught a faint whiff of cigarette smoke, as Muraki leaned closer.

"You see here," Muraki said, pointing at the picture. "The form and position of the scar is most significant. Lightning means power, strength, vision; it is an uncontrollable force of nature. It strikes where it will, without warning. And see how the scar runs across the center of his forehead, directly over the ajana, the eye of wisdom. This is the center of perception, of commanding authority. This young man is very powerful. Your Master is right to fear him."

"He is the only person known to have ever survived a direct hit by the killing curse," Snape said.

"But that is where you are mistaken." The doctor turned to the wizard, his mechanical eye gleaming. "He did not survive the killing curse."

Snape's breath caught in his throat. "Explain," he asked, inclining his head politely.

Muraki laughed. "Neither can live while the other survives," he intoned. "Isn't that how it goes? Your mind is not as closed to me as you think, Professor. Your mental shields are powerful, but you are distracted tonight." He turned away to look at the tank again. "They are bound together, your Master and this boy - bound by that scar. By all rights he should be able to take possession of the boy's body; curse scars are the perfect conduit for such puppetry. But the connection is blocked."

"Blocked by what?" Snape asked, careful to keep his voice neutral.

Muraki only shrugged. "That is of no consequence. The way might have been open once, but now it is closed. Your master will not be able to open it again - at least, not without this."

Muraki held out a thin, rectangular sheet of paper with a string of Japanese characters and intricate patterns inscribed on one side. Snape frowned - where had that come from? Muraki hadn't been holding it before, and he hadn't reached into his pockets ... "Hold this to the boy's forehead, press it tightly over the scar," he instructed. "No incantations, no potions, just this. His magic will be drained and channeled into the person holding the spell. Kept in place for long enough, it will drain the boy's life force as well." He placed the ofuda into Snape's hand. "But where's the fun in that?"

Snape silently tucked the spell into his sleeve. The paper felt cool, yet oddly sharp, against his skin.

"This magic is only for the living," Muraki said. "What has your master in his collection that works against the dead?"

Snape withdrew a vial of clear liquid from the pocket of his robes, placing it into Muraki's hand. "Chill this until small crystals have formed on the inside of the glass. Then remove the stopper and place three drops - no more, no less, equally sized - between the lips. Reanimation should take place within the hour." He paused, then added, "It will not be permanent."

Muraki's eye glittered, hard and bright. "I do not require permanence. This will be more than enough." He paused, looking thoughtful. "I may even be able to test this out tonight. How convenient that I've recently acquired a ... volunteer."

Snape didn't want to stay to witness the experiment; given what he knew about Muraki, he wasn't sure he might not become part of it himself. "Aragato," he said smoothly, bowing again. "It has been a pleasure doing business with you, sensei." He didn't bother to close the door on his way out.

Once on the street, and a fair distance away from Muraki's lab, he looked around to be sure that no one was nearby and then whispered an ancient spell over the ofuda. Then he poured the contents of a vial of red powder into the palm of his hand and blew on it gently, dusting the particles over the ink, causing the writing to loosen and scatter across the rice paper. The ofuda glowed briefly as the ancient characters and symbols crawled across its surface, delicately rearranging themselves. Within a few seconds several subtle, yet significant - and, most importantly, undetectable - changes had been made in the spell. Lupin's strange little friend - Watari, or something like that - had said that it would be enough cause the spell to backfire on the caster, reversing the intended effect. The war would be over before it had even begun.

As he prepared to disapparate, Snape thought that he saw, out of the corner of his eye, a dark-haired man in a dark suit leaning against a nearby lamppost. But when he turned to look more closely, there was no one there. Only the briefest shimmer crossed the air where the stranger had been, like the remnant of a thought, a ripple in the stillness, a leaf falling on the surface of a pool.

A breath later, and the street was empty.