"You want WHAT?"
Albus Dumbledore stared at his Potions Master in shock.
The dark haired man sighed softly and lowered his eyes.
"Please, Headmaster. Voldemort is gone; Potter saw to that. I don't have to spy anymore, I don't have any purpose anymore. The students would only be too happy to see me gone. Please. I have never asked you for anything, in all those years."
Dumbledore walked around his desk, pulled the younger man up from his chair and sat them both down on the couch.
"Severus, you know I'd do anything to reward you for your efforts. I had rather hoped that you would be leading a happy life, perhaps marry and start a family…"
Snape looked up at him. "Headmaster…Albus…it's too late for that already. It was too late for that thirty years ago, before I even entered Hogwarts."
"But…you're asking me to let you go."
"Not entirely," Snape corrected, "I'm asking you to return me to infancy. You know it takes both potion and spells, and I have the potion."
"I would still lose you, Severus," Dumbledore softly said, "You never believed me when I told you I do care a great deal for you. I would miss you. Are you sure, absolutely sure, that this is what you want?"
Snape nodded. "Yes, it is. I only ask that you place me in an orphanage some place where people don't know who I am. Perhaps abroad."
Dumbledore stood up and paced the room.
"No," he said, "No, no, no. I can't allow it."
Desperation welled up in the younger wizard's eyes.
"Albus, I always obeyed you. Always tried to do whatever you wanted. Please, don't make me go on like this."
Dumbledore knelt in front of him.
"Child, that's not what I meant. If this is truly what you want, then I will help you, but do not ask me to put you in an orphanage. The only condition I set for my help in this, is that you will allow me to take care of you. Either I will raise you myself, or I will find suitable people to do so, so that I can still be part of your life. Do not ask me to abandon you to some unknown fate."
Snape felt himself choke up, and he leaned forward, resting his head on Dumbledore's shoulder.
The old wizard stroked the dark hair and sighed.
"I take it that's a yes?" he asked.
"Yes!" Snape managed, "I thought you did not want…did not want to be burdened by me."
Dumbledore took his chin. "You are not, nor will you ever be, a burden, child. Now, I want you to take the three days I need to prepare the spells to think long and hard on this. Promise me that."
"I promise," Snape nodded. Then he looked around. "Would I be living here?" he asked.
"Probably," Dumbledore answered, a bit preoccupied.
Snape studied him for a moment. "You are angry with me for wanting this," he mumbled finally, biting his lip.
Dumbledore closed his eyes. "Come here," he said.
Cautiously, Snape approached. Dumbledore encircled the thin shoulders and pulled him to his side. Then he guided him to his private rooms. A small library and study next to a dining room, and beyond that the bedroom. From one of the shelves of the library, Dumbledore took a small booklet with photographs. Snape's jaw fell as he turned the pages of the small photo album.
There were pictures of his years at Hogwarts, taken at the feasts. Clippings from the Daily Prophet, which reported on awards he had won in his last two years at school for his Potions achievements. There was a small gap – his Voldemort years – and then it continued with the pictures taken during his time as a teacher. There were even some of him and Dumbledore together, and it was clear the old wizard was particularly fond of those. They had a place of honor in the book.
Snape looked up at the old man.
"See, child," Dumbledore softly said, "all I want for you is to be happy, and if this plan of yours is the best way to achieve that, I will do my very best. But you wouldn't turn out the same person you are now. The person you are would largely disappear. You would be happier, I would make sure of that. I showed you this, not to make you feel guilty, but to make you understand that I'm not angry. I'm just sad, because to let you have a better life, I have to let you go."
He wasn't prepared for the young man to rush up to him and throw his arms around him, hiding in the folds of his robes.
"Thank you," he heard a muffled voice from somewhere just below his left shoulder, "thank you so much."
He held him protectively; something he had longed to do for many years, but Snape had never allowed anyone to touch him. Somehow, the prospect of getting out of this life, and starting over was already changing the wizard.
Snape finally pulled back.
"Thank you, for everything," he said, picking up the album, "this means…this means so much to me."
"But you still want to go ahead with it," Albus smiled sadly, "even when you finally believe that I do love you, my son," he gently brushed back a strand of black hair.
Snape nodded. "I can't be whole again, Albus," he whispered, "even with you helping me. I need…need to get rid of all this pain. I'm sorry."
"I understand," the headmaster replied, "I'll help you. I'll take care of you, and I promise you that you will be happy this time."
Three days later Dumbledore nodded at a pale, but determined looking Potions Master.
"Everything is ready, child," he said softly, "Are you ready too?"
"I am," was the curt reply. Then, after a pregnant pause: "Are you too?"
The ancient wizard opened his arms. "Please, Severus. Let me say goodbye properly."
As he stepped into the embrace, Snape smiled a real smile for the first time in years.
"I won't be completely gone," he said, feeling a deep desire to comfort the old man, "What will happen is that I will grow up to become the person I should have been, without the pain and sins I carry with me now. This is not the real me, Albus."
Dumbledore hugged him tighter.
"I'm going to the couch," he said, "and take you in my lap. I will perform the spells, and then you must drink the potion."
"You could just put me on a bed, you know," Snape pointed out.
"It'll be better for both of us if we do it this way," the headmaster argued.
"I know," Snape sighed deeply. "Shall we, then?"
Dumbledore nodded, and soon had the Potions Master laying calmly in his arms, dark eyes trustingly looking up at him.
"Your robes, child. They would suffocate you if you kept them on like this."
Snape unbuttoned the robes and shrugged the heavy material off his shoulders so he was laying on top of them. The thin shirt he wore underneath wouldn't matter much.
Dumbledore brushed a kiss on his forehead.
"Remember, as soon as I finish the spells, you must drink the potion," he reminded nervously.
Holding onto the headmasters robes with one hand, Severus kept the vial ready with the other.
Dumbledore began the lengthy sequence of spells. At the last wave of the wand, Severus looked up at him, gulped, and downed the potion in one go. Then he went limp. The vial dropped to the floor as an eery light began to surround the body.
Dropping his wand, the headmaster pulled the man up close, against his chest, snuggled under his chin.
It was only a matter of minutes. The body shrank and shrank until finally, Dumbledore held a three week old baby in his arms.
The dark eyes, still blue at this age, opened, and tiny fingers took a firm hold on his thumb.
The baby didn't cry, but seemed quite confused when silent tears rained upon the tiny face, and kisses were pressed on the soft head.