Never

A/N: For SweeneyAnne. A pairing-less HP fic that will confuse the hell out of you since you've barely started reading the canon. It's a sign of my love ;)

It doesn't follow canon and it stands alone. I could continue it, or add to it as it were, but I probably won't. Just something that was bouncing around in my head because I love Severus Snape.

Never had he guessed, in all the twists and turns that his life had taken, that it would come to this.

Despite the fact that he taught Potions to little imbeciles that some fondly referred to as children, Severus Snape had no idea what to do with them outside of the classroom. Yes, he spent many waking hours preventing them from blowing their faces off with a cauldron and a boiling potion but what Dumbledore asked of him now was not just teaching.

He wanted him to raise a child.

The young boy, only five years old, sat in the chair strategically placed in front of the Headmaster's desk with wide eyes darting all around him. It was almost painful to look at him, he looked so much like his father. His eyes were all Lily, though Severus was not surprised to see that for himself. Dumbledore had taken great pleasure in describing the brat to him and he wondered, not for the first time, whether the old man was clueless or just a sadist.

"Why are you doing this to me?" Severus turned to the Headmaster, his jaw clenched.

"It's not a punishment, Severus," Dumbledore said heavily. "You are the only one he has left."

"His Aunt—"

"Take a good look, Severus. Look past the resemblance to James and really look," the Headmaster said, his blue eyes sad. "You ask me to return him to that?"

Severus tore his eyes away from Dumbledore's and looked at the boy, almost against his will. He knew exactly what it was that Albus was hinting at, it did not take a genius to see it, and it certainly didn't take him more than a glance. It was not his eyes, or his wild hair, that made the boy stand out to Severus, it was the way he held himself. He was nothing like James in that regard. James Potter had always held himself tall, with pride and arrogance, but this boy hunched and curled in on himself even though it was obvious to anyone with a pair of eyes that he longed to explore the fascinating room he had found himself in.

"Surely, there are others more qualified to do this," Severus said, not taking his dark eyes off of the child. "Molly, perhaps, or—"

"Molly and Arthur have plenty of their own children," Dumbledore interrupted. "The youngest of which is not yet four years old, to ask this of them would be unfair."

"Is it fair to me?" Severus demanded, turning on his heel to stare down the older man. "Is it fair to him?"

"Severus—"

"No," the Potions Master cut him off. "I have followed all of your orders, even when it cost me dearly, but I will not do this. Let Molly and Arthur do it, they can be compensated monetary wise, I'm sure his parents left him funds. They have children his age; they know what they're doing. I am not—" he stumbled on the words that pushed at his lips. He knew they were true, but it went against the grain to admit to a flaw. "I am not parent material. This is something that I—I cannot do."

Dumbledore sighed, taking his half-moon spectacles off of his crooked nose and rubbing the once broken appendage. He looked older than Severus had ever seen him, and the man had been old when Severus was a mere boy.

"Lily entrusted his care to you."

The words had barely registered in his brain before he snorted. "Black is his godfather," he sneered. "Not that it will do the sprog any good, what with him in prison."

"He is a child, Severus," Dumbledore snapped, giving the teacher a stern look from under thick white eyebrows. "Lily put you down as the next guardian if Sirius should be killed after they died. He is as good as dead according to the law, which leaves you as the boy's legal guardian. I kept this quiet at the time and sent him to his mother's people because I thought that they would be better suited than you. I was wrong."

"Are you so sure about that?" Severus demanded. "You have seen me with children. They hate me."

"Harry?" Dumbledore's sudden change of demeanour almost startled Severus. He leaned over his desk, looking down at the quite boy kindly. "Would you like something to eat?"

The child looked up at the older man quickly before his eyes darted back down to his scuffed trainers. They were filthy and falling apart, the laces had been knotted back together several times and the left one practically had a flapping mouth at the front. Severus clenched his teeth together and told himself that it wasn't his problem.

"Harry?" Dumbledore inquired again. Despite the softness of his voice, the boy hunched over even more and his small hands grabbed on to the edge of the cushion under his legs.

With an irritated sigh, Severus snapped his fingers. Almost instantly there was a sharp crack and a House-Elf appeared. Harry's head snapped up at the sound and his green eyes became impossibly wide.

"Take Mr. Potter down to the kitchens and get him something to eat," Severus told the Elf. The creature bowed deeply, its large ears flapping with the movement, and reached out to take the child's hand. Just before it was about to Apparate away, Severus stopped it.

"No," he said, harshly. "Walk him down. He is not used to magical transportation, yet."

The Elf nodded again and pulled the small boy out of the overly large chair and towards the door. The two men listened to the high squeaky voice of the Elf telling the boy to step onto the stair case and let it take him down before the familiar grinding sound of the gargoyle moving out of the way reached their ears.

"The war against the Dark Lord is over," Severus said, turning around. "I do not have to take your orders anymore, unless they pertain to my position here as Potions Master. I do not have to do this for you."

"No," Dumbledore agree. "You do not. This does not change my request, however. Harry needs someone to care for him. It could do you both a world of good."

"I don't know howto care for a child!" Severus burst out, his temper unleashed now that the child was gone. "You would take him away from one abusive home to put him in another?"

"Are you suggesting that you would beat the boy, Severus?" Dumbledore asked, his voice hard.

"No!" he yelled. "But I am not a nice man, Dumbledore. I cannot be placed with James Potter's son! It would be a disservice to the boy."

"The mere fact that you acknowledge this possibility makes me want to trust you with him all the more," Dumbledore said, his calm mask back in place. "If you are aware of the potential problems, would you not do everything in your power to prevent it?"

Severus felt like reaching up and pulling his hair out, or whipping out his wand to break some of the priceless trinkets around the room. Even more appealing was the desire to throttle the old man.

"I am no good for the boy," he bit out angrily.

"You are better than his blood relations," Dumbledore said. "You would never starve him, beat him, or enslave him." Severus opened his mouth to retort but the Headmaster continued as if he had not seen. "I do not expect you to coddle the boy, or to shower him with love and affection, I know you better than that Severus. He's far more mature than he should be for a five year old child and he's used to far worse than anything you would throw at him. I only ask that you try to be kind."

"Are you sure I am capable of it?" he sneered once more, the expression twisting his face into something grotesque.

"What form does you Patronus take, Severus?" Dumbledore asked calmly.

Severus knew exactly what the Headmaster was trying to say and it stopped him cold. The manipulation was plain to see, a blow below the belt, but then Dumbledore had never had any qualms about that when it might gain him what he wanted. He was a master at making his puppets dance. Severus gritted his teeth together and tried to bottle the rage that surged from behind the expressionless face. It would do him no good to be sentenced to life in Azkaban for killing the one wizard who had kept him out of it the first time round.

"Is this how it is to be, then?" Severus glared. "You will either guilt or blackmail me into it?"

"I will not blackmail you, Severus," Dumbledore said. "But I will not deny that I am trying to appeal to your better nature."

"I do not have one," Severus spat and turned on his heel. "I am afraid you will regret this one day, Dumbledore."

He did not wait for the man's response, if there was to be one, as he swept out of the room. He was far too impatient to wait for the revolving staircase and he sped down it, his long legs taking the stairs by threes until he reached the bottom. The gargoyle barely had any time to jump aside before Severus was striding out into the corridor, heading for the kitchens.

He had a child to retrieve.

Severus Snape shook himself out of his reverie and realized that the fire before him had died down without his noticing. He looked up at the clock on the mantel piece and saw that Harry had been gone far longer than he should have. Severus had only sent him out to the store for more milk which should not have taken him more than twenty minutes, at the most. The Potions Master frowned slightly, the irritatingly familiar feeling of worry uncurling within his chest. He was just about to pick up his wand and perform a Locator Spell when he heard the sound of the front door opening.

Harry, now nearly sixteen years old, let himself into the small house at Spinner's End to find his adopted father glaring at him for all he was worth.

"You're late," Severus said, his words clipped and hard.

Harry grinned at him. "Ran into that pretty girl from down the way at the chemist. Had to be polite, make small talk, you know."

Severus' frown deepened but he said nothing, preferring to wear the boy down with an intimidating silence.

What Severus hadn't yet realized was that his tactics had stopped working on the boy some years prior. Harry recognized his adopted father's ire for what it truly was: concern.

"Got the milk," Harry said, holding up the jug as he smiled disarmingly, unknowingly looking much like his biological father. The thought didn't occur to Severus, however, because James Potter had never smiled at him in that way and he didn't recognize it. That smile, self assured and taunting, was all Harry's to him.

Seeing that his tactics were not working, Severus turned in his chair and settled for scowling at the teenager. "You are an impertinent child," he declared. It was something he told Harry on a regular basis.

"And yet, you love me anyway," Harry said cheerfully, toeing out of his trainers by the door and heading straight for the kitchen where he began to bang around, causing a racket that only made Severus glower all the more.

"Do you want some tea?" Harry shouted from within, his voice sounding muffled as if he had his head stuck in the damn Muggle contraption that he called a fridge. Severus had never bothered to get rid of the Muggle aspects of his family home before Harry had arrived unceremoniously in his life and afterwards they were a source of comfort for the scared child he had been at the time. Despite the fact that Harry was practically grown, almost an adult by Wizarding standards, Severus had kept the Muggle appliances even if they irritated him when they broke down every couple of years.

"Dad?" Harry shouted as if they were at opposite ends of a Quidditch pitch and Severus huffed in annoyance.

"Yes! Now stop screeching like a Banshee!" he yelled back.

"Takes one to know one!" Harry hollered as the clanging sound of the aluminum kettle hitting the element met Severus' ears.

Waving his wand at the hearth, the fire sprang up once more and, despite himself, Severus smiled.

His son was a giant pain in the arse sometimes, but he was just that: Severus' son.