A two and a half year old Argus Filch sat on the stairs, staring longingly at the door.
"They'll be home soon, Master Filch, just you wait," the small house elf waiting nearby said.
Just at that moment, Argus heard the familiar crack that meant his parents were near, followed by a strangled wail.
"Shh, my dear," he heard the voice of his mother croon through the door. "I know it's nasty, I know."
Argus looked expectantly at the door, rocking back and forwards in excitement. As he watched, the handle turned and his father appeared through the door, his mother following closely behind, a now silent bundle in her arms.
"Now, who's this?" His mother was talking to the baby, not that it understood a word. "This is your big brother Argus." She sat down softly on the staircase, next to the eager looking boy and he peered curiously into the bundle.
The baby inside had dark brown eyes, and tufts of brown hair. She was looking at him, struggling to focus, but trying to see her brother nonetheless.
"Sister? For me?" Argus asked, staring lovingly into the chubby little face enveloped in the blanket.
"Yes, darling," his mother replied, drawing an arm around him and pulling him close. "A sister. Atalanta."
"At.. A.. Lant.. Uh?" He sounded out carefully. His mother smiled.
"Good boy. I can tell you're going to be the best big brother in the world." Argus smiled goofily.
"Time for bed, I think," his father piped up, glancing at his watch. Reaching down, he pulled his son up and started climbing up the stairs. The sleepy boy rested his head on his father's shoulder.
"Atalanta," he mumbled happily. "My sister Atalanta."
A five year old Argus Filch sat on the same stairs, this time in much less happy circumstances.
He had been walking past the top of the stairs when he heard the knock on the door. Hoping it would be his Mummy returning home, he sat down at the top of the stairs. His father strode out of the study and walked to the door, opening it briskly. A man dressed in black, a sombre look on his face stood there.
"Magical Law Enforcement, typical. I have a hundred things to do, but no, my day has to be interrupted by imbeciles asking me idiotic questions." His father looked ready to slam the door in the young man's face, but a few words stopped any idea of this.
"Sir, it's about your wife." The young man stumbled over his words. As the minutes passed, it was revealed that the capture of a rogue potions dealer had gone awry, dangerous potions released, his mother killed. A flesh-eating potion. Nothing they could do. They were sorry for his loss.
As the door closed, his father had sunk onto the stairs, burying his face into his hands.
"Daddy?" Argus asked. "Daddy, why would they hurt Mummy?"
As his father beckoned him down and pulled him onto his lap, tears brimming in his eyes.
"Argus, there are two types of people in the world: good people and bad people. Bad people use bad magic and hurt people. It's the way thing is. We just have to hope that the good can balance out the bad."
"I'll use good magic, Daddy," Argus promised earnestly. "I won't let the bad people use bad magic. I won't."
"That's right, son. You do that."
With that, his father rose and left, his face preoccupied and his eyes unfocused, and disappeared into the study. Argus sat on the stairs, tears for his mother starting to roll down his cheeks as the situation sunk in. His sister emerged from the living room with Toddy the house elf, and ran towards him. The elf bowed respectfully, before disappearing.
"Don' be sad, Aggus," his sister said mournfully, looking up at Argus sadly.
"I'll keep you safe," the young boy said decidedly. "I promise, Atalanta, I won't let the bad people use bad magic on you. Never."
A ten year old Argus Filch sat on the stairs, his knees pulled up to his chin. He stared determinedly at the front door, his face screwed up in concentration.
"Open." Argus ordered. His face was gradually going a deep red. "Open," he ordered again, his voice beginning to crack. "Open!" He almost yelled the command, but there was still no change. "Please open," he begged, staring at the door.
He straightened up as he heard a noise behind him and upon seeing his younger sibling, smiled. She bounced down the stairs towards him, plonking herself down next to him, a smile splitting her face. "Hey, Argus, look what I can do!" She plonked herself down happily next to her brother and pulled out a book. "Pick a number," she giggled.
She looked at the book intently and it immediately flipped open to page twelve. She looked up at him expectantly and he smiled weakly.
"It's magic!" Atalanta exclaimed happily. "I'm going to go and show Daddy!"
"That's great," he said weakly. "He'll be really pleased."
As his sister skipped off towards their father's study, Argus dropped his head into his hands.
No matter how hard he tried, he had never been able to perform magic. Even his sister could and she was more than two years younger than him. He stared intently for a few more seconds at the door before pulling himself up. As he trudged up the stairs, he heard his father's voice, ringing with happiness. He turned briefly, sighed, and then continued up the steps.
A thirteen year old Argus Filch sat on the stairs, staring at the door that had swung shut just a few minutes earlier. It was the first of September. His father and his excitable eleven year old sister had run out of the door, barely casting a backwards glance towards him.
Two summers ago, Argus had waited in this exact position for hours, waiting desperately for a letter that would never arrive. As September had finally come and gone, Argus had finally had to accept that he was not going to go to Hogwarts. That he was a squib.
From that point forward, his father barely acknowledged him; the only time Argus caught him watching was with a slightly disgusted expression on his face. His attention had become entirely focused around his daughter. To an outsider, she might have been an only child for all that his father talked about him.
The few childhood friends had been encouraged to rid themselves of his company. Argus scowled at this thought; it's not like being a squib is infectious. He had briefly contemplated the idea of going to a muggle school, but his father would hear none of it.
"No son of mine would be going to an institution like that!" His father had said in disgust.
Argus had laughed in response asking if that meant he actually qualified as his son. Argus still had a small bump on his nose from where it had healed after his reprimand for that smart remark. He rubbed it gently, his head flicking up as the door opened.
His father's smile disappeared as he saw his embarrassment of a son. Argus rose to go upstairs, but his father stopped him with a raised hand. Argus ground to a halt, a sinking feeling in his stomach.
"I think it's time for you to actually contribute something towards this house," his father said condescendingly. A cart crashed out of the kitchen, filled with mops and other assorted cleaning equipment. His father gestured to the cart.
A sixteen year old Argus Filch sat on the stairs, his arm around his younger sister. Her head was buried in his shoulder and muffled sobs could be heard.
"They did it... Just because you're a Slytherin?" She nodded into his shoulder. His face creased angrily in confusion and frustration. "What about the other two houses? The boffins and the weaklings? Or the teachers? Why would they let this happen?"
Atalanta pulled away from her brother, wiping the tears from her puffy face. "They don't want to interfere," she choked out. "And the teachers all prefer them anyway."
"They still shouldn't be allowed to hurt you," Argus argued. "Don't the teachers realise they're using dark magic?"
"It's not exactly dark, though," Atalanta mumbled.
"It's still bad," Argus grumbled. "Those Gryffindors don't deserve to get away with it. If you let me at them-"
"It's not like you can," Atalanta pointed out.
Argus looked at her scathingly.
"I didn't, I, uh, sorry." She hung her head, her eyes welling up with tears again.
"It doesn't matter," Argus dismissed guiltily. "It's fine." His sister still looked uncomfortable.
"I should go and see Father."
Argus nodded. "I guess you should."
"Thanks, anyway." Atalanta let out a small smile before hopping down the stairs. From his vantage point, Argus could still see how she daintily carried her injured arm, cradling it in her other hand.
'I swear. I swear I will make them pay,' Argus thought.
A twenty-three year old Argus Filch sat on the stairs of his home, a letter cradled in his hands. He hadn't even had the heart to deliver the news in person. His sister was dead, but no, it would be too hard for his father to force himself to look at his failed son again.
A letter was so impersonal. So thoughtless. Argus opened the letter again, letting the tears slide down his face.
Atalanta was killed earlier today. A group of glory-hungry Gryffindors saw her with the wrong people at the wrong time. She was killed by a deflected curse. Her funeral is on Tuesday. For the sake of our family, I request you do not attend.
With intensity more than any other point in his life, Argus Filch wished he had magic. Wished he could have been there to protect his sister. Wished he had the ability to take on her killers. Wished it could have been him.
More than anything, he was filled with hate. Hate for those who saw her life as nothing more than a 'worthless Slytherin'. Someone who would go wrong no matter what happened just because of the house she was sorted into when she was eleven. Merlin, she was just eleven then! You can't choose killers from that young an age. Seemingly not, given they were the ones now branded as killers. But would they be? Or would they be glorified as merely preventing those destined to fall into the dark arts? What they did may not have been inherently dark magic, but it was bad nonetheless. And for that, Argus wanted them to pay.
A fifty-two year old Argus Filch sat on the stairs of Hogwarts, his home for the past nineteen years. The home in which he had spent the morning removing frog brains from the ceiling of the dungeon. Not his best day, not that it was important to him.
His sister would have turned fifty today. If it weren't for those Gryffindors, she would be here right now, alive. She would be married to Mr James Norris, fellow Slytherin and one of her best friends. She might have had children. He might have been an uncle.
Suddenly, Argus Filch knew a troublemaker had been discovered by Mrs Norris. He didn't know how he knew, but he always knew. He ran at speed through the corridors before arriving at a familiar face. A familiar face who just so happened to have dripped mud from his sopping Quidditch robes all over the corridor.
"Filth!" Filch cried. "Mess and muck everywhere! I've had enough of it, I tell you! Follow me, Potter!"
As he marched the boy to his office, all he could think was 'damned Gryffindors, all they think of is themselves!' No thought about the consequences of their actions; no thought of who would be left behind.
No idea about the mess they would make of his already messed-up life.