A/N:

Written BEFORE Deathly Hallows was released in 2007.

You flame, I report you.

The Twelve Strokes of Midnight

The Fidelius Charm protected the mansion and the secret keeper would not betray one of the things that kept him safe. No doubt, the Ministry of Magic and the Order of the Phoenix would rally every man and woman to bring about his end if they knew where his base of operations was. The Dark Lord, Lord Voldemort is no fool, and not one to suffer fools lightly.

However, one man dressed in rags, bound in chains and curled in to a ball at Voldemort's feet was the accursed spy for the Light for over twenty years. Severus Snape, like all Death Eaters had sworn an oath that promised service until victory or until death claimed them as part of their service to Lord Voldemort.

Death would come, but only when Lord Voldemort was done administering the punishment of a slow, tortuous death to Severus Snape who would be remembered amongst the Death Eaters of Lord Voldemort as the "Traitor of Traitors." That is once Severus either surrendered the information sought by Voldemort or Voldemort raped Severus's mind to extract the whereabouts of the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix.

The chains around Severus's ankles and wrists were heavy of the wrought iron variety that weighted at least ten or fifteen pounds. However, their weight was of no importance. On the other hand, the chains are enchanted with a never-ending Cruciatus curse that had been a part of Severus for hours, curled in to a ball, unable to move from the pain driven down his taut and screaming nerves.

The blood had pooled and continued to pool upon the floor from everything he had endured, but only once had Severus utter a sound. However, inside his mind, Severus found himself wondering how much patience Voldemort could have. He had heard the grandfather clock in a corner of the room chime twice. First when it chimed ten in the evening, and then again when it chimed eleven at night. Moreover, he speculated, it was coming upon the end of the second hour. He wondered how much more he could possibly take. He knew that no rescue was coming, that no one would save him. Not even if they knew where he was as none cared for the "greasy git," who remained un-trusted by more than ninety-nine percent of the Order of the Phoenix, and the Ministry of Magic for that matter. Moreover, Severus found himself questioning himself as to why he remained loyal to the Order that had left him to his fate.

Severus Snape had held a position of power and influence amongst all Death Eaters, but he no doubt held knowledge within his mind regarding the full membership of the blasted Order… knowledge equivalent to the power and influence that he had once wielded as Lord Voldemort's Left Hand. A few words, a few names, a few places, such as the address of the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix would most likely earn him a painless death. After everything he had suffered, death would be a blessing but Severus refused to speak.

"True courage and bravery such as this, I have rarely witnessed, Severus. Valiant, noble but very, very foolish Severus," the voice of Lord Voldemort was hissed as the snake Nagini lay upon its coils, seemingly watching the events with amused fascination in its eyes.

Lord Voldemort stood over him, and raised the wand away from the shaking, pain wracked Snape, "I don't usually take so much pleasure in torturing Wizards, most especially purebloods. But I had to make an exception in your case, Severus," Voldemort paused, as the healing draughts splashed on to weak form of Severus Snape, did their task of masterfully closing the deep, scaring wounds with ease.

Even as he lay there, Snape could do no more than grit his teeth and bare the pain, refusing to cry out and give Voldemort that satisfaction. The light filling the room from the moon did little more than give a half light that gave everything it touched a surreal appearance. However, nothing could was surreal about the dozens of slashes that crisscrossed back and forth across Snape's back, chest, legs and arms that had been inflicted using Sectumsempra, the very spell that the Half-Blood Prince himself had created in his final years at Hogwarts. The irony of which was not lost upon Voldemort, or on Snape for that matter. Severus braced himself every time he heard the casting of the curse, for the slashing, knife like pain that would follow seconds behind it. While the curse itself inflicted staggering pain, that pain was amplified ten fold when Voldemort paused, and reached on to the small table beside his "throne," reaching for the bottle of Fire Whiskey and liberally drained the bottle on to already curse opened wounds. "This is a muggle technique of torture actually," said Voldemort conversationally, "but it is highly effective in amplifying physical pain and was originally brought to my attention by Bella," the grim features of Lord Voldemort's face broke in to a grim smile, "and you are becoming rather an expert on the subject aren't you," he paused, "Snivellius?"

Snape had lost count of the number of wounds inflicted, and merely continued focusing through the pain to keep his Occulumency shields in place, to protect that which mattered most. He spared no focus from that task, even as he tried to prevent his body from moving, whether in pain or in desperation, as the floor beneath him, was drenched in a mixture of blood and alcohol seemed to eat at his abused body like acid upon a rock.

Snape found himself actually recalling obscure facts that he had read before, about the marvels of the human body, of how much blood the human body could hold, and that one could swallow at least a pint of blood, their own blood before becoming ill. If Snape could actually see, he would have turned his eyes to heaven to ask how he could still be alive after so long beneath Voldemort's wand. However, he did not bother looking to the heavens, as he could no longer see.

He had been blinded at the outset, and irreversibly so, but he knew that he would not survive the coming torture anyway. The power behind the Conjunctivitis Curse had ruptured his eyes, turning them in two bleeding flowers upon his face. The sudden brutality of that first of multiple rounds of torture had been the only time when Snape had let out a sound of pain that seemed to echo up from the very depths of his mortal soul.

The knives and needles that slashed at his skin, again a distant part of his mind wondered how he could still be alive and sane under the continuous torment of the Cruciatus Curse as he had been for hours now. They had captured him when trying to pass information to one of Dumbledore's agents, days before. The chains and their enchanted curse had been upon his body and attacking his mind for at least two days. More than a day under the continuous torment of Cruciatus and he was still alive and still sane. The simple fact of it boggled his mind, as he expected himself to crack under the pressure and to have gone insane long before this point.

The pain arching in to his flayed nerves from those chains left him curled up in a ball, and unable to even try to ward off Voldemort's spells and curses, even as the voice hissed out, from only a few inches from his ear, "Cry out Severus, and surrender to the pain. Tell me what I want to know and Lord Voldemort will end you pain."

Even in agony, Severus found it within himself to resist even further, clearing his throat, before turning his head sharply, to spit in to Voldemort face. The ball of phlegm landed upon Lord Voldemort's left cheek, just below the snake like eye. Nothing prepared Snape for the sudden and rapid barrage of high power curses that Snape recognized as the deadlier, non-verbal version of his own Sectumsempra. He felt bones break within his body making it almost impossible to breathe as lightning raced down every nerve finally breaking out through his lips, in a quiet, low gasp, but still without a spoken syllable.

Voldemort paused for breath simply because if amused him to keep up a one sided conversation with the mutilated Severus Snape, "You have a threshold of pain that surpasses anyone I have ever known – according to my most loyal followers, the Longbottoms were driven insane long before this point was reached."

The grandfather clock standing in a corner of the room, clicked as the final minute before midnight arrived. Snape could hear the mechanism whine within the clock as it prepared to sing its twelve rings to mark the arrival of midnight, and of two hours of unbridled hell, "I would have granted you a swift death and a painless one had you had even the courtesy to share even the slightest morsel of information."

Voldemort paused, beginning the intricate wand movements of the final spell, speaking casually as he did so, the first stroke of midnight sounded, "This particular spell will be the one that kills you, slowly, and opens your mind to me. The last person I used this spell on, screamed spectacularly well, but nobody heard her screams of agony, for her husband was already dead upon the floor, and their infant son… I doubt he remembers anything more than some flashes of green light and the sound of my laughter."

Snape felt the first of it. It began in his toes, a quivering that he could not control, when the scream burst from his lips, as all of his ten toes suddenly shattered, as the bones seemed to shift and transfigure within his body, cutting through muscle and fiber, as what was once his bone turned to broken glass, that seemed to expand outward from within.

The soles of his feet exploded in similar shattering pain, that steadily traveled upwards, in to his shins, his knees and the his thighs, every bone not shattered breaking and transfiguring into glass, as his body, out of his control, arched suddenly. The cuts upon his flesh reopening adding more burning fire to his agony, his back arching, as his bones gave way, still proceeding through his body, the remnants of his shattered ribs followed suit, his body out to kill him. A distant part of his mind registered that the grandfather clock had rung yet again, making it three chimes and it was winding back for the fourth chime, and somehow, Snape could hear still hear the clock over all the pain ripping through him

The fourth chime struck as the Trasmogrifian Torture claimed the first vertebrate of his spinal column turned a searing cold that had almost a metallic feel to it seared his flesh till colder than artic winds, spreading upwards through his spine, and down through his shattered ribs. Flesh seared beneath the unyielding cold, until everything was stiff and hard, spreading downwards to his agony-wracked legs, leaving his twisted form a firestorm of pain as the clock struck its ninth chime.

"Such is the penalty to all who betray me. The Transmogrifian Torture is arguably one of the most agonizing ways to die. Perhaps you could write a treatise upon the subject – as you have done with the Wolfsbane Potion," laughed Voldemort, even as Severus's Occulemens shields finally slipped, and Voldemort gained access to the storehouse of knowledge within Severus's mind. Moreover, it took only a few moments, as the torture continued to rip through Severus Snape for Lord Voldemort to extract the one fact that he had sought for so very long.

The ripped and shattered muscles within Snape's pain racked body, shifted and morphed one final time as the broken bleeding tissues of his body turned to hardened wood, his body stiffening beneath the unsurpassed agony that made the Cruciatus Curse seem like an inconveniently broken finger. And Snape finally screamed out, the sound of soul wracking agony that had been suppressed within for so long, the last act of free will that Snape could muster through cracked and blooded lips, spitting blood and fragments of broken teeth in a gross imitation of a fountain, before falling silent, his voice destroyed by his scream.

His body as stiff as a board, hovering at the brink of death, Snape lay there, blinded, mute and almost done, but the last he heard was Voldemort shouting to his assembled Death Eaters, "Number 12, Grimauld Lane! We march upon the Order of the Phoenix! Leave none of their ranks alive! Slaughter them all in my name!"

It was rather sudden, when Snape opened his eyes, and found himself, staring down at his broken form, as the Death Eaters, marched out the doors of the massive chamber, some taking the liberty of spitting upon his lifeless corpse before filing out its doors. The Dark Mark had brought the full ranks of the Death Eaters, all two hundred and seventy-two of them, and they were marching to nothing.

He found himself confused, wondering if he was now a ghost, cursed to haunt this place of all places in the world. But even if that was his fate, he chuckled to himself, satisfied that he heard done his best, and that when he would be judged by whomever or whatever existed beyond his nearly ended life he would be able to take some pride in his final act of defiance. Still, to haunt Voldemort's Lair for an eternity… that struck him as rather cruel after everything that had happened.

"Not quite Severus Snape," said a voice, suddenly coming from a form that appeared next to him. The voice was a soft, like the wind upon a warm, gentle summer's day, and "Where others would have to wait for judgment, I have come to pass my judgment upon you now."

Snape whirled round as his broken form twitched upon the stone floor, not quiet ready to abandon life it seemed, "Who are you?" Snape paused to take in the presence of the, woman, shrouded in a white light, with electric blue and white something outlining her shoulders… wings.

She spoke quietly, softly and with conviction, "The doorway to a place of peace and serenity, away from the eternal struggle between Light and Shadow is now open to you," she gestured with a hand, as a doorway of sorts appeared behind them both, seemingly set in to the ceiling. "The choice is yours, whether to move forward and claim what you have earned, or to remain behind, as others have chosen to, fearful of what lies beyond life, as part of death as a ghost."

Even as Severus asked his question again, she seemed to gain a measure of amusement from the question as she answered with a riddle of her own, "Often portrayed as the Leader of the Four Horsemen, riding an undead stead, with the Scythe in my hands, my true nature to those damned to eternity. However, this is my true nature to those who have served the Light with honor and courage nearly unrivalled amongst mortals. Your open defiance and deliberate deception, has saved the lives of many amongst the Order of the Phoenix, who can continue the fight against the Shadow."

Snape employed the same smile that he had employed, time and time again against Gryffindor students, a smile that bordered on being evil, "Lady Death I presume."

"Indeed, that is I," she replied, "The doorway remains, but not for much longer. The choice is yours to make Severus Snape. Choose wisely, for once your choice is made, it cannot be undone. Farewell," she whispered to him as she faded before his eyes.

As the last vestiges of life leeched from the broken husk of his mortal body lying in a pool of tainted blood and alcohol, there was the beginning of a gentle smile upon his face as he found the peace he had sought throughout his life, in the embrace of death as the clock chimed the final stroke of midnight.