This plot bunny snuck up on me again, so I started working on it again.
Pretend there's a disclaimer here.
The sweltering July heat was enough to cause Albus Dumbledore to start to sweat even through his numerous Cooling Charms. He looked down at the dark wicker basket he was carrying and sighed, feeling incredibly burdened with what he was about to do. They'd all agreed that this was the best option - not only for the child sleeping in the basket for the greater good. Still, he was oddly uneasy completing this task.
He looked up and down the sidewalk again to make sure that no one was watching him. A pointless move, he knew, as it was nearly three in the morning and everyone was asleep. If not by natural means, then by the charm he'd put in place when he'd first arrived on the street.
One house in particular for him: the fourth house down on the left side of the street. Without saying anything, he made his way toward the house.
A grey tabby cat ran up to him and started winding between his legs, meowing loudly.
"I'm taking care of this, Minerva," he said with a smile at the cat.
She stopped winding between his legs and started purring loudly.
"Don't worry about this," Albus said. "Go back to safety and I'll meet you at the swingset once this is all taken care of."
The cat meowed again before bounding down the street in the same direction that she'd come.
Once the cat disappeared from sight, Albus continued toward the house in question. When he reached the front of the house, he sighed again and set the basket down on the front step.
The child inside the basket watching him with unnervingly intelligent green eyes.
"I am truly sorry about this, my boy," Albus said quietly as he watched the child. "But the decision has been made and we've all agreed that this is the best choice to keep your family safe. You will be with your extended family and they will take good care of you until I return."
The babe, as he was a few days shy of a year old, said nothing. Instead, he continued to watch Albus with his eerily bright green eyes.
"I'll collect you once it's safe for you to be brought back into our world," he said, taking a step back from the step. "Until then, you'll be watched over and loved by the Muggles in your family," he added before knocking on the door and canceling out the sleeping charm on the street.
A few seconds later, a quiet stirring in the house told him what he wanted to hear and he headed toward the playground about two blocks away.
"Minerva?" he asked, and the cat ran up to him. He picked her up and the two of them disappeared seconds later with a barely noticeable 'pop'.
About five minutes later, the door of the house opened to reveal a half-asleep woman with more than a passing resemblance to a horse. She frowned, looking around before noticing the large basket on her front step. She peaked into the basket, gasped, and slammed the door shut.
The door opened again to reveal her husband, this man resembling a walrus. He looked in the basket and scowled deeply. "Oh, this is not happening," he muttered darkly. "You're going straight to the orphanage, brat." He went back into the house for a moment, coming out wearing a coat and carrying the keys to his company car.
His wife followed him out and carried the basket to the car, shoving it, and the child, into the front passenger's seat of the car. "Don't be gone for too long, Vernon," she said, kissing the man.
"Don't worry, Pet," the man said with a sleepy smile at his wife. He got into the car and started up the Mercedes. "I shouldn't be gone more than an hour. Go on back to sleep and I'll be be back soon."
She nodded and watched as he backed the car out of the driveway, going back inside when the car headed down the street.
Vernon drove for about twenty minutes before coming to a stop at a traffic light.
Before the light turned green, he was startled when a man appeared next to his car seemingly from thin air. The man looked around, a frantic look about him, and he turned to the car, suddenly pounding on Vernon's window.
Vernon scowled and wound the window down enough for him to glare at the man. "What the bloody hell is wrong with you?"
"My son," the man said hysterically. "I'm looking for my son!"
"Your son?" Vernon asked, calming slightly. He'd almost lost Dudley at the zoo, so he could understand a bit about what the man had to be feeling.
"My wife was killed and they stole my son," the stranger said, tears welling up in his eyes. Vernon easily picked up on the man's Russian accent as he spoke. "I followed them here, but I can't find them anymore. Please, have you seen my son?"
The nearby streetlight and the traffic lights shed some light on the man and Vernon took a moment to look the man over before answering his question. The man was wearing a well-worn leather jacket and very worn, dark blue jeans, with a dirty grey t-shirt. He had black, tangled hair that seemed to be about chin-length, and it looked like he hadn't had the chance to shave for a number of days. His skin was pale, but the look in his eyes worried Vernon the most. They were dark and sunken, but there was a wild panic and a glint of insanity that had Vernon absently wondering why he didn't keep a gun in the car for safety.
He hesitated for a moment before meeting the man's nearly hysterical gaze again. "What does your son look like?" he asked.
"He's a year old in a week," the man said, furiously wiping his unshed tears away from his eyes and tugging roughly on the sleeves of his leather jacket. "He's got the most beautiful bright green eyes and black hair," he said. "Please, tell me you've seen him?"
Vernon hesitantly stepped out of the car. "Stay back from me," he instructed, and the man immediately took a step back from Vernon, making sure that he was out of arm's reach. "There was a boy left on my door in a basket, and he matches what you told me your son looks like," he said hesitantly.
The man smiled weakly, and his knees appeared to almost buckle underneath him. "Really?" he asked. "Is there, I mean, there's not - is he-?" His voice seemed to fail him.
Vernon shook his head. "He didn't look hurt," he said. "And there's no blood anywhere in the basket, so I don't think he's been hurt at all. This way," he said, walking around to the other side of the car.
The man followed him, though he still stayed at something of a distance, and, when Vernon opened the passenger's door and the man caught sight of the child, he collapsed to his knees. "He's alive," he whispered in English before saying something in Russian. It seemed almost like he was praying.
He watched the man uncomfortably for a moment before taking the child out of the basket and quickly handing him to the man.
"Thank you," the man said, clutching the child to his chest.
Vernon nodded brusquely. "Did you want the basket or the letter that was with the boy?" he asked, his tone coming across gentler than he'd expected.
"No," the man said, standing up and looking only at the child. "Keep them, trash them, burn them for all I care. I don't want those things anywhere near my son," he said.
The child giggled as the man murmured something in Russian and reached out to grab at the loose strands of the man's hair. The man smiled through tears and bowed his head so the boy could grab at more of his hair, and the child laughed again.
That interaction alone had Vernon convinced that the child belonged to the man. He reached into his car and pulled out the small stack of money that he kept in the car's glovebox in case of an emergency. "Here," he said, handing the money to the man. "This isn't all that much, but it should be enough to put you up in a hotel for a few nights," he said.
The man nodded his thanks and put the money in his pocket, but said nothing to Vernon, instead murmuring in Russian to the child.
Vernon shrugged to himself, feeling a bit awkward just watching the man and his child, and got back into his car. He turned it around and drove back toward his house, not wanting to look back at the man and his son.
As soon as Vernon turned a corner away from the reunited pair, the man stood up, all signs of panic or hysteria replaced with a calm, collected mask and a smug smirk. He looked down at the child in his arms and chuckled as the child giggled and reached his small arms up as though to grab at the man's hair again. He snapped his fingers and Vernon's car exploded, taking out a good chunk of the nearby houses.
The child laughed again and the man dropped the small stack of bills on the ground by his feet. He looked down at the money and murmured something in Russian. The money went up in flames, leaving nothing behind.
"Let's go home, kid," the man said in Russian before disappearing the both of them with a loud 'crack'.
They reappeared seconds later in a small, dusty sitting room.
The man looked around before sighing slightly. He was away for a few years and the house elf let the place fall all to hell. He made a note to himself to find a more competent house elf once he had the time to resettle in his family home.
The paint on the wall was cracked and peeling, and the few pieces of furniture in the room were covered in thick layers of dust. There was a large crack in the window across from the fireplace and the few remaining books on the bookshelf looked as though they'd fall apart the moment he tried to touch them.
A barely audible 'pop' and an immense rush of power that knocked the air from his lungs caught the man's attention and he immediately fell to his knees, taking care not to harm the child. He bowed his head, looking only at the child in his arms as one of the doors to the sitting room opened with an annoying, overly loud creaking sound.
A man with more than a passing resemblance to a serpent walked silently into the room. He looked around and scowled at the sight of the room. "Your home is falling apart," he hissed quietly, and the disapproving tone of his voice was not missed by the other.
The Russian man hesitated briefly, not entirely sure what to say for a moment. "Forgive me, my lord. I haven't been home in a number of years and the house elf has clearly taken that as a sign that it can slack off," he said, chancing a glance up at the serpentine man.
His lord was silent for a long moment before stepping even closer to the Russian man. "You have never disappointed me before," he hissed in a pleasant enough tone of voice. "Do not start now."
"I wouldn't dream of it, my lord," the man said quietly, holding the boy a bit closer to him. He bowed his head and closed his eyes when he felt his lord's fingers card almost gently through his hair. "I did as you instructed, my lord," he said hesitantly before falling silent for a long moment. "I would request one thing, though, my lord, if it were possible," he said, opening his eyes and taking a deep breath.
The child stared silently up at him before gurgling quietly in his baby language.
His lord almost gently grabbed the man's chin and pulled it up so that their gazes met. "I will not make you any promises," he said. "But what is your request?"
The man said nothing for a brief moment. "Allow the child to live, my lord," he said.
"And what, exactly, would you have me do with a child?" his lord asked.
"If you would allow it, my lord, I could raise him as my own. I know how to care for a child his age," he said, looking back down at the child.
The serpentine man frowned, glancing at the child. "Yes, I remember. Your wife and child. How long has it been?" he asked.
"They were killed eight years ago," the man said, staring down at the child in his arms.
The boy was watching him silently, and when he noticed the man looking down at him again, he grinned and reached his hands up to the man, gurgling quietly in his baby language.
"Someone killed them just a few hours before I was sent to Azkaban, my lord," he added quietly.
The serpentine man was silent for a long moment. "What sparked your sudden interest in the child?" he asked.
"I realize that I don't know why you want the child dead, my lord, but I do not want to believe that it is so necessary for the blood of this boy to contribute to your rule. Apart from that, I suppose he reminds me a bit of my daughter when she was a baby."
The serpentine man smirked. "And if I ordered you to kill the boy with my next breath?" he asked.
"Then I would be duty-bound as your followers to kill the child, my lord, but I cannot say that I wouldn't regret it," he said. "I have asked little of you in the past, my lord," he said after a moment of hesitation. "All I am asking now is that you allow me to keep the child."
Both men looked down at the child, not saying anything.
Finally, the serpentine man made a quiet noise similar to a sigh. "I suppose I will allow you this," he said in a quiet, almost reluctant hiss.
"My lord?" he asked, looking up at the serpentine man.
"You may raise him as your son, and I will not interfere unless I decide that the boy is a threat." He tugged none too gently on the man's chin. "Stand up."
The man did as told, offering the child in his arms a minute smile, and watched his lord's every move.
"I will even go so far as to offer you my assurance that if I decide the boy is too much of a threat, I will not order you to kill him. Instead, the child will die by my hands, and my hands alone," he said.
"Thank you, my lord," the man said.
The serpentine man looked down at the boy, who watched him for a long moment. Finally, he stuck his tongue out and blew a raspberry at him before giggling quietly.
The Russian man smirked slightly, though he did his best to hide it when he noticed his lord staring irately at the child, who was wholly unaffected.
"Raise the boy as your son," his lord instructed. "I will be looking in on the boy's progress, and I expect nothing but the best from you."
"Of course, my lord."
The serpentine man took a step back. "And the next time I visit your family Manor, I expect it to be presentable," he said, motioning at the moldy, dust-covered furniture in the room and the cracked and peeling paint. "I expect it to be befitting the Family Lord that you are, and safe for your new Heir. He will need a new name, as well."
"Of course, my lord. As you wish," he said, looking back down at the child in his arms.
The serpentine man smirked at the picture the two of them made before disappearing with another barely audible 'pop' and another small gust of power that again knocked the air from the man's lungs.
He looked around the room and sighed before calling out for his house elf.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent and across a channel, James Potter and his wife Lily left their house with their heads held high, trying not to think about what they'd agreed to do.
They ignored the stares and the badly hidden whispering as they made their way into the Hog's Head Tavern in Hogsmeade and say in a booth across from the esteemed Albus Dumbledore for a one-on-two meeting with the man.
Lily looked over at James as they made themselves comfortable and placed their orders with the waitress. She seemed more confident in her choice than her husband, and she offered him a small smile.
"How are you two doing?" Albus asked.
James watched his wife for a long moment, returning her smile and taking her hand before looking back at his former Headmaster and current Leader. "We're doing as well as you'd expect, I suppose. It wasn't easy, making the decision, but it's made and there isn't any point in regretting our choices."
"And the other child, JJ?" he asked.
"He's recovered better than we'd hoped, actually," Lily said quietly. "He gets a bit lonely sometimes, but he seems almost happier now that we're not forced to split our attention between two boys," she said. "And his accidental magic sparks quite frequently. He's showing his potential earlier than either James or I did."
Albus watched them for a moment. "You're still not entirely convinced, though," he said. It wasn't a question.
James squeezed her hand reassuringly as Lily nodded. "We know we made the right choice, but it still doesn't make that fact any easier to live with. He was our son, Albus, and we broke our twins apart to make sure that the prophecy child stays safe," he said.
Albus nodded morosely, but said nothing for a moment. "I realize that I was the one who made the suggestion to you two in the first place, but it wasn't easy for me to bring it up at all," he said. "But you were the family in his sights, and your eldest twin was going to die. Keeping them separated will not only ensure that the boys are kept safe, but it ensures that you two are kept safe as well."
Lily's free hand strayed down to rest on her stomach, and James smiled more fully when he noticed that action. "It won't be just us and JJ for too much longer," Lily said. "And because of our decision, JJ and our newest child are going to be safe as they grow up."
"Things are going to get much better within the next few months," James said, looking over at Albus.
Albus nodded again and sent the young couple a reassuring smile. "Oh, I have no doubt about that, James, my boy," he said, his blue eyes twinkling madly.