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Severus Snape could not remember what it felt like to be human. To be flesh and blood; to have dreams, desires, fears… Even to experience numbness from emotions. Being numbed to them at least meant they existed. He was certain that he was beyond the capacity to feel anything, now.

He hadn't thought it possible. Hadn't wanted to think it possible. Because, in some way, it would mean that he hadn't changed from a vicious Death Eater, the way Albus had trusted that he had. They'd argued over this night so many times; he and Dumbledore. And his answer had always been no. He would sacrifice himself before killing the one man who had allowed him a second chance.

Oh, but Albus knew him too well. He knew that in the end, Severus would do the logical thing. Sacrifice one for the good of the many. And then there were the illogical reasons, too. Destroy the man he'd respected, admired, even loved, in his own fashion, to save the soul of an innocent boy. Perhaps even this was sensible--don't allow the old and fading to linger while the young perish. No doubt he would have said that, were he here. He'd smile and pat Severus on the shoulder, something he'd never appreciated. Somehow, though, he could never bring himself to tell the older man to stop.

Albus always could get those around him to put up with tripe, though. Severus considered this night to be no different. The fact that he'd given his word to perform this deed…well, there was no other word for it but tripe. Yet when he'd looked into his friend's eyes and seen such pain and heard the pleading note in his voice, he could not go back on his word. He would save Draco Malfoy, along with his mother and father. He would save himself. When and if his emotions returned, he would hate himself as well.

He knew this, because there had been something else in Albus Dumbledore's eyes in the long moments before his death. Something that had threatened to engulf Severus in crushing sorrow. Even as he'd spoken the deadly words, Albus had stared into his eyes with nothing but trust.