Plot, new characters, new magical terms and abilities etc. are my intellectual property. If you want to borrow then please kindly ask. JK Rowling's characters and Wizarding Universe are all uniquely hers.

Summary: Snape is on the run from Voldemort and the Ministry of Magic, both of whom will stop at nothing to silence him. He finds unexpected refuge in the most unlikely of places.

Alternate Universe. This story is rated T.

The Man Who Came In from the Cold

Chapter 001: Witness

He could not remember the last time he ate a proper meal; the last time he had anything that closely approximated food. He was hungrier than he would have ever believed possible; hungrier, dirtier and angrier than he'd ever been in his life. But he would not cower; would not surrender.

Severus Snape resisted yielding to the ever-increasing temptation to scrounge like a gutter rat for a few crumbs. He still had his damnable pride.

He shivered from the cold and pulled the coat tight around him; it didn't quite fit and that only served to annoy him. But winter was coming early and beggars couldn't be choosers. He'd stolen it when the opportunity presented itself from Muggles with not a care in the world as they celebrated their luck and the benevolence of the Almighty in their dominance of all they surveyed. He had observed them with increasing hatred as they sat on the terrace of what was obviously an excusive restaurant. They ordered the staff about as if they were slaves. He laughed ruefully at the thought of them – the workers who despised their Masters for being at their beck and call; being subject to every whim. They were slaves to the desperate hope that the Lords and Ladies Muck would make their enslavement financially worthwhile. How much he understood their unenviable predicament – though financial gain had never been a particular interest of his.

Snape had watched as platter after platter of all manner of delicacies was placed before them by the low-paid staff highly skilled in the art of serving that was Silver Service. Methuselahs of vintage champagne appeared – money was no object and it most certainly wasn't to be thrown about so recklessly. He'd never had neither money nor the carefree attitude towards it that these dunderheads had to turn their noses up at the culinary expertise of a chef with 4 Michelin stars to his name.

Merlin's Beard; how he despised them and those like them! And given that untenable fact felt no remorse at relieving one of them of his coat after trailing his victim to the restrooms. He who had only ever existed in the shadows was not seen or heard as he broke yet another vow and turned thief.

He was now no better than that vile Mundungus Fletcher.

Fletcher.

The reason he was in this unholy mess. Him and Potter – Potter who, to his detriment, had still not learned to keep his mind closed and his mouth shut. He could not care about either anymore – Potter's refusal to trust his former Potions Master had cost Fletcher his life and almost cost Potter his.

Thanks to those imbeciles Snape had managed to be somewhere he shouldn't have been; and in so doing he'd managed the unthinkable – he was witness to an unholy alliance the likes of which shook him to the depths of his magical core. And no thanks to that wretched dunderheaded Boy Who Lived, he was found out. He was found out, but could not fight it. And the one person who could have helped him was near death himself. Albus Dumbledore, the supposed Greatest Wizard of the Age was on the verge of becoming just another painful memory – and publicly.

And Potter was in more mortal danger than ever. The Boy Who Thought He Knew Better Than His Former Potions Master had refused to listen to the truth that was laid bare before his eyes. The Failed Chosen One had refused to listen and instead called a guard of Aurors and Order members.

Snape had always been blamed for all manner of things not of his doing and this time had been no different – but it was far more dangerous this time; there was far more at stake here. The former Potions Master of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry had battled to save his own life, putting some distance between himself and his accusers.

But his luck could not hold out forever; not against the Ministry of Magic.

However, to be confronted with the political minefield that was the Ministry would have been a singular blessing; but the situation was far graver then he and Dumbledore had ever anticipated it could ever become. And now the Headmaster lay near death; and for many his death seemed an absolute certainty.

Snape was one of those people.

Without Dumbledore there was no hope against the Ministry and Lord Voldemort.

What the Potions Master wouldn't give to undo this mess!

He had tried not to venture too far from communities with a sizable wizarding population to keep up with the news. But it was suicidal to do so now with Aurors and Dementors scouring the country looking for him, though unofficially. He was to be the recipient of the Dementor's Kiss without so much as a closed-door trial at the Ministry of Magic; that was the only thing he was sure of at the moment.

The Ministry – God Almighty their betrayal was unconscionable.

The wizarding community had no idea of what lay before them and Snape was not a man that anyone would listen to. Not even Dumbledore's Order of the Phoenix would give him the time of day. They pronounced their judgment and turned on him as one body – led by Potter, McGonagall and Lupin.

He was damned no matter what he did – or didn't do…

Without Dumbledore to confirm that Snape was indeed on the side of the good, the Potions Master had had no choice but to flee.

He was running alright; running for his life with this sinking feeling that matters were bound to get far worse before they could conceivably get any better.