Disclaimer: All characters, names, places, plots, and settings relating to Harry Potter belong to J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury Publishing
Warnings: Frequent Minor Offensive Language
Infrequent Minor Violence
The Phinius Boy
The day was calm. Serene, yet dreadfully macabre for late August. The sky was covered in shaggy blankets of grey, completely blotting out the sun.
It was a dreadful way to end the summer. The sky hadn’t shone blue in weeks, but at least it hadn’t rained. And the customarily violent wind of late seemed to have passed silently in its sleep; the wind that had for the past month carried the black foulness of smoke, ash, and specks of fire to the tongues of the townsfolk.
Perhaps things were finally looking up. The winds had calmed, and the nasty string of arson attacks on old decrepit buildings had finally come to a screeching halt.
The dry air had remained, along with the stench and visible rubble: The festering corpse of the arsonist’s victims, but at least the attacker had been caught. And about time too, if the murmurs of the public were anything to go by.
That boy. He’d always been strange. He was always the odd one out, marked by his pale white skin and long black hair. Even at the age of ten they could tell he was trouble. Everything about him screamed delinquent, certainly not the kind of boy with whom they’d want their precious, perfect little children hanging around.
Even for a resident of that infamous estate, the Phinius boy was a freak. He’d never in his life had a single friend. After all, who’d want to befriend such a demented cretin as him?
He was always standing in the shadows; always staring into space; staring at the trees, or at the rusted nails in the wall; always glaring loathsomely at passers-by.
It was only three years ago when a wave of petty theft had rippled through the local primary school and there were no guesses as to whom the culprit was. More recently, the little malformation had taken to burning things. It was only a matter of time before he killed someone. Something had to be done. He had to be sent away. It was the only option.
Of course he was guilty. There was no shadow of a doubt in the townsfolk’s minds. He’d been arrested by the police on suspicion of the arsons. He’d been detained for days, and to nobody’s surprise, the attacks had suddenly stopped. No more arson. No more fires. It was evidence enough for anyone.
It had been just over a week since the last fire. An old, unused building in the schoolyard had gone up. Phinius had been seen in the area only hours before the incident, and it had taken less than an hour beyond that for two police squad cars to arrive at his residence. He was in custody within the hour, to the immense pleasure of all.
It had been a week since the streets had been safe, yet dense levels of foot traffic were still rare. Parents had repeatedly drilled into their children’s heads not to go near the playground, or the abandoned warehouse. They were known to be Phinius’ favourite haunts.
Even now, such places were deserted, Dead, so nobody was around to notice the strange occurrence of that day. Nobody was around to witness the absurdity of it all, nor question their sanity at seeing the impossible.
Nobody was around to hear the loud pop, much like the sound of a car exhaust backfiring.
Nobody was around to see as a strange man dressed all in black appeared amongst the drab, decaying scenery; seemingly from nowhere.
The man was dressed in the oddest attire. He was adorned in black robes, as though from some obscure religious sect. Long curtains of greasy, black hair fell about either side of his pale face.
Taking in his surroundings, the strange man’s brow furrowed above his dark eyes, and his attention was shifted to a large, blue building. Grey stone steps lay at the building’s entrance and made a pathway which the public could use to enter and exit. Large, oak double-doors presented the only way in or out, equally unimpressive to the man as the bold, painted letters above them spelling out the informative words to describe this particular building: Police Station.
With an uninterested glance about him, the odd individual clad in black made his way across the deserted road to the building on the other side.
Once through the large double-doors, the man found himself within a large lobby. The walls and ceiling were painted white, and the grey linoleum beneath his feet carried a sheen associated with the chronic cleanliness of the local population.
Uniformed men and women walked in and out of various adjacent offices and hallways, soon vacating without a sparing glance, clearly busy with their personal tasks, soon leaving the room deserted. On the far side of the lobby, the man noticed a woman with a mess of dark, dirty blond hair that came down a little past her ear, her scruffy fringe ending well above her brow. Her pale skin carried a yellowish tinge.
The woman’s cold blue eyes scrutinised him through the narrow slits created by her eyelids. The man’s thin lips curled upward in a knowing smirk at her reaction. Whatever could she be thinking?
“I need to see the Phinius boy,” the man drawled in a thick baritone. The woman suddenly scowled at the man’s admission.
“The boy’s in an interview right now,” she stated, rather impertinently. “You’ll have to wait.”
“It is urgent,” the man insisted.
“He’s in an interview,” the woman repeated impatiently.
Looking around the empty lobby, the man withdrew a long, thin object from within his robes. He wordlessly pointed the small, wooden rod square at the difficult woman’s face, and a bright flash of light engulfed her.
She stood still, dazed. Blinking, she looked to the man, who had once again hidden the strange object.
“Detective?” she asked, as if coming out of a daydream.
“Phinius?” the man repeated once again.
“Ah, yes… yes, of course sir. It’s just that… well –“
“I am in a hurry and need to speak with him, now.”
“Well, okay,” she conceded.
“Take me to him.” The man’s tone was calm, yet assertive.
“Of course, sir, follow me.”
Elsewhere, in the back of the station, a red-faced man with a complexion like that of a beetroot stood staring unblinkingly into the unwashed face of a most heinous youth seated on the other side of the large steel table.
The interview room in which they currently resided was a dark grey, verging on black. It was honestly more like an interrogation room than anything else.
There were no windows, no ventilation, and no sources of natural light to be found. There was no escape, save for the single door. There was no way the boy would elude justice this time. They had him. They finally had him, and he would never get away. It was only a matter of time.
The man’s eyes narrowed hatefully at the boy and he slapped his palms loudly against the cold, hard surface of the table.
“You expect me to believe that complete load of bollocks?” he bellowed.
“For the benefit of the tape,” the boy stated distantly, as though narrating a documentary, “the sergeant has once again lost his temper.”
“Listen here, you little –“ the man bellowed, reaching across the table to lay a hand on the boy.
“For the benefit of the tape,” the boy said, once again, “the ill-tempered sergeant is about to assault a minor.” Stopping in his tracks, the officer released the boy’s t-shirt, which had been wrapped twice around his clenched hand.
“Let’s start again, shall we?” The boy shrugged his shoulders; wiping imaginary dust from the spot the adult had quite violently grabbed him.
“Fine by me, I’ve got nowhere better to be. It’s the same with you, isn’t it?”
“I’ll be asking the questions, if you don’t mind.”
“Do you have anywhere to be? Is anyone waiting for you at home?”
“Let’s get back on track,” the man suggested, changing the subject through clenched teeth.
“I’ll take that as a no.”
“Cut the crap!” the man took a deep breath to calm himself. “Alright, can you tell me why you’ve been starting the fires all over town?”
“I told you before. I haven’t started any fires.”
“Then why do we have a list of witnesses a mile long waiting to testify that it was you?”
“Probably for the same reason that you’ve been stuffing your face while I’ve been locked in here, rather than out looking for the one who actually did it. Or are you so confident in your undisputed forensic abilities that you need not check your facts? I imagine the evidence closet has just what you need to wrap this dreadful business up nicely.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“You know,” the boy spoke, amusement evident in his tone, “you’re very good at that.”
“Good at what?” The boy smirked.
“Acting. I can usually tell when people are lying to me; it’s an instinct I have, but you do it so well. You really seem like you have no idea what’s going on. You really do come off as a complete moron.” Anger rising, the sergeant slammed his hands down on the table once more.
“We have witnesses! You’ve been seen.” The sergeant began grinning maniacally. “You were all alone in the schoolyard when it went ablaze!”
“True,” the boy conceded, “but I didn’t do it.”
“Oh yeah?” the man sneered. “This should be good.”
“I was there. I saw the whole thing, but it wasn’t me.” This time, it was the boy who was beginning to lose his temper. He’d repeated his story time and time again. They never believed him, what was the point? “Like I said before, I didn’t do it. It wasn’t my fault! The building just went up in smoke. It spontaneously combusted!”
“And how does a little boy like you know a big word like that?”
“I read. Have you ever done that? You should put down the tea and biscuits sometime and pick up a book. You might learn something.
“Oh, so the building just set itself on fire, did it?”
“I’ve had it up to here with your smart mouth, brat.”
“Look, I can’t explain it. Things just… catch fire when I’m around.”
“Catch fire?” the man asked sceptically.
“You all think I’m crazy, but it’s true. The fires just… start, all on their own. It’s like magic or something,” the boy added.
“Magic? so half the town’s been incinerated because of some magic trick? Do you seriously expect me to believe a cock and bull story like that? There’s no such thing. Everybody knows magic doesn’t exist!”
“I said it was like magic,” the boy corrected, placing emphasis upon the keyword in his sentence. “It was a simile. Do you know what that is, or didn’t you get that far in your education? Too busy snacking in the back of the class?”
“That’s it you filthy little toe rag!” the man howled. He’d just reached across the table to lay a hand on the boy once again when the door suddenly opened.
Taken aback by this sudden surprise, the man turned his rage on the one who had disturbed him.
“What is it?” he bellowed at the blonde woman who stared back with fearful, wide eyes.
“Uh, Detective Inspector Snape is here, sir.”
“Who?” the Sergeant barked. He obviously had no idea about whom the woman was speaking.
“Detective Inspector –“the woman began, but was instantly cut off as a greasy haired man entered the room, long black robe flowing behind him.
“I’m here to speak to the boy,” he explained.
“Who the bleedin’ hell are you?” the Sergeant demanded.
“I’m the one in charge of this case.” Scowling, the Sergeant looked at his watch.
“Interview terminated at four twenty nine PM,” he stated, reaching over to a nearby tape recorder and switching it off. “The hell you are!” he rounded on the robed man. “I’ve never heard of you!”
“Then perhaps you should consult with your superiors.”
“How dare you?”
“I’m in a hurry,” the robed man dismissed. “Can we hurry this along?”
“You’d pull rank on me? You bastard, There’s no way I’m answering to a pansy in a dress!”
“Feel free to complain about it later, but for now, leave me with the boy.” When the Sergeant refused to leave, the man addressed the woman. “You, he commanded, “get him out of here.”
“Yes sir,” the blonde complied, approaching on the insubordinate sergeant.
Scowling, the heavyset man backhanded her hard across the face, sending her gasping to the floor in pain as much as surprise. He then turned his glowering mug to the black haired man in the robe: This so-called detective.
“Turn my officers against me?” he challenged.”
“Your disobedience to a superior will be discussed later. For now, get out before I have you suspended without pay.” The Sergeant stopped in his tracks, eyes widened in shock. The other man found this amusing, sneering at the lowly sergeant’s greed as the lesser of the two allowed himself to be escorted out of the room by the very female officer he’d assaulted.
The threat of financial loss was all it had taken to remove the burdensome policeman from his path.
Long, black cloak fluttering behind him as he walked, the long haired man approached the table and took a seat opposite the youth.
The boy cocked an eyebrow as he took in this new man’s appearance.
“Let me guess, you want me to start over from the beginning.”
“You want me to start over from the beginning, sir,” the adult corrected.
“Whatever,” the ten year old replied, rolling his eyes.
“You may address me as Professor Snape,” the man offered.
“Professor, huh?” The man had a gaunt, thin frame. With his dark eyes, shoulder-length black hair, and large hooked nose, this character reminded the boy more of a mad scientist, or some kind of evil wizard from a children’s story.
The one known as Snape smirked knowingly at the boy, as though sensing what was going through his young mind.
“Let us begin. Tell me why you’ve been brought here.”
“Shouldn’t you start the tape?” the boy remarked. This ‘professor’ was a joke. A young boy had to tell him how to do his job now?
“This conversation will not be going on record. Just tell me why you are here.” The boy shrugged.
“Cops dragged me from home and dumped me in a cell for about a week… not like I care; I haven’t slept this well in ages.”
“And? Why would they do that?” the man asked, ignoring the boy’s remark.
“Someone’s been starting fires. They had no leads, so everyone blamed me. Nothing new there.”
“I see. So, fires seem to erupt around you.”
“That’s what I said. Good to see you have working senses other than that giant honker of yours.”
“You think you’re funny, don’t you boy?”
The child shrugged. “When people lose their sight, their other senses are heightened to compensate. With a nose as big as yours, I can’t imagine how weak your other four senses must be. I’m surprised you can see anything beyond that monstrous thing.”
“Back to the point,” Snape spat humourlessly.
“These fires, they all start when you’re around, don’t they?”
“Technically, but that doesn’t –“
“When you’re angry?”
“What?” That had to be the stupidest… but thinking for a moment, he found it to be true. The fires did happen when he was most angry, whenever people tried to upset him. One time, during a fight initiated by Boris Burnwood, one of his usual tormentors at school, the muscle-brained Boris had been horrified enough to find his hair had caught alight; much to Phinius’ amused gratification.
“You can’t explain it,” the man clarified, “things just happen. It comes out of nowhere, and you always happen to be in the middle. You don’t understand it. It’s like…” Snape paused, as if considering his final word carefully; “magic.”
“What?” Had he just said magic? Why, did he know what was going on? How did this man know what the boy was thinking? It was as though he could read his mind. It was rather baffling, and almost as infuriating.
The professor’s demeanour was difficult to interpret. Was he attempting to come off as serious, or patronising? There was no such thing as magic. That much was obvious, but the things that had been happening recently… what other explanation was there? Something was going on: Some abnormality, some kind of anomaly.
“Magic,” Snape repeated; his voice soft and deep. “Is that how you would explain it?”
“I s’pose,” the boy muttered with a shrug, remembering the sergeants words. The boy scowled. It was a simile. It was like magic. Everybody knew that magic didn’t really exist.
“It’s not real, is it, Mister Phinius? It must be a figment of your warped imagination.” Snape held out his hand, palm facing upward, fingers curled slightly.
Within the span of a few seconds, a pale blue light had emanated from his fingertips. The strings of light drifted upward in thin, slow-moving streams. The puppet string-like lights merged together to form a ball of blue light, floating above the professor’s open palm before erupting quietly in flame.
The small fire flickered vibrantly in Snape’s hand, emitting a light blue hue. Even from his position on the other side of the table, Phinius could feel the heat that radiated from the small, blue flame. This was no mere illusion.
Snape’s lip curled upward in an amused sneer at the boy’s reaction.
“I take it that this is not the first time you’ve seen this kind of thing,” he said.