Awkward Feelings

I just had to write something that was ok and I didn't leave hanging – I hate being left hanging – but lack of reviews cost me my enthusiasm and I gave them up. Please review if you want this story

Summary: a simple love story – with as few strings attached as I could manage.

Disclaimer: these wonderful characters do not belong to me but to JK Rowling – the talented writer who invented a character that stole me heart. (guess who?!)

Chapter 1: How it all started.

Hermione sighed as she thumbed through the pages of the book. It was no use. She knew the whole book off by heart already and studying just made her head spin worse. Her eyes wandered to the quill next to the book and then the ink bottle next to that until finally she found herself starring out the large, arched window. It looked nice outside, it was unnaturally warm this April.

She rested her head on her palm and let out another sigh. The giant squid in the lake was lazily propelling itself from one side of the lake to the other.

Something clicked and she remembered she had to get back to studying.

The pain was clenching in her head and she felt a flash of frustration when she spotted the word "potions" which she had seen at least 2000 times already. She leaped up from her seat, flung her chair back and picked up the book.

She let out a loud scream, in frustration, and threw the heavy, fusty book across the room and into the wall.

It collided with the wall, making a muffled "thud" noise.

The whole of Gryffindor common room froze and stared at Hermione. Harry and Ron and Ginny had started to cautiously make their way towards her. She just stood there, breathing heavily as she stared at the crumpled red book on the floor. Her frizzy hair crackled with electricity from anger and her eyes blazed with a dangerous light.

"Hermione..." Ron said slowly and cautiously. "Erm..."

"Are you feeling a little stressed?" interjected Ginny with only a small amount of sarcasm. Hermione glared daggers at her but didn't answer.

Harry handled the situation better than both the Weasleys. "Maybe you should step outside and get some air," he said firmly. She felt some of the anger fade into exhaustion and she sighed again. Nodding, she headed for the portrait hole.

With a quick guilty look at the book lying on the floor, Harry sternly shook his head. Hermione knew he was right. Although she felt an incredible urge to pick up the book and take it outside with her, she knew it would defeat the purpose.

Trying to gather as much dignity she could muster with half the common room still staring at her she strode out of the room.

The second she closed the portrait behind her a wave of regret swept over her. NEWTs were less than two months away. She almost went straight back in if she hadn't thought of the firmness and honesty in Harry's expression. Yes - she was working too hard.

With a longing look at the direction of the common room, she set off. She didn't take her time and practically rushed down the stairs to the Grand Entrance. The sooner this was over with, the sooner she could study again. Although she knew this attitude would not help her calm down, she couldn't fight it.

She decided the maximum time she should spend outside should be 20 or so minutes, then she could catch up easily enough on her work.

Now that she had a time limit and a plan for her studying, she relaxed immensely.

She reached the lake and looked around, taking in the cool calming environment with as much enthusiasm as she dared. With a glance at the dirt at the shore of the lake, she reached inside her large robe pocket and wrapped her fingers around her wand.

She spied a rock close by, picked it up and placed it where she wanted to sit. With a small graceful flick of her wand she transfigured the dark misshapen stone into a comfortable and rather large red, cushiony blanket.

She found a long piece of grass and turned that into an enormous pillow that was big enough for 5 or 6 people to lie on. With a smug look of satisfaction she sat down and leaned against her pillow. Spreading her legs out in front of her, she took in a deep breath and prepared for a long break.

The birds fluttered sluggishly overhead as her eyes slowly closed. The sounds of the trees moving slightly in the breeze filled her ears and she decided it wouldn't hurt to take a short snooze.

Hermione sat there quietly for 7 or so minutes, absorbing the good feeling, when her good vibes were violently disrupted.

Footsteps were drawing near. She felt herself snap out of her daze. She blinked twice before bending her neck back as far as it would go over the large white pillow to get an upside-down view of whoever was approaching.

Once she got a glimpse or who it was, she snapped bolt upright. All thoughts of relaxing had disappeared into oblivion. Professor Snape was walking towards her. She hoped with all her might that he would walk right past, then realised that that would cause him to walk into the lake. She did not take back that wish however.

When he stopped beside her she held her breath, wondering if she might be in trouble or whether he was just here to insult. Hermione did not turn her head his way to acknowledge him but watched him from the side anyway.

"May I sit down," it was not a question but not so much an order either. No you bloody-well may not! she thought to herself, but didn't say anything out loud.

He sat down a fair distance away from her on the thankfully oversized blanket. She did not take her cautious eye off of him, refusing to blink. He did not lean back on the pillow however, preferring to remain upright and alert.

This was the last thing she wanted, an uncomfortable discussion with Snape. He was his tense and usual stand-offish self. Finally, she turned to face him.

"Am I in trouble professor?" she asked with as much snap as she thought appropriate. His face clouded for a mere half a second before he answered.

"Not at all, unless you have something to hide?" he fixed a harsh stare on her, she didn't even flinch. "I wanted to enjoy the view too, unless this position is reserved for know-it-alls alone?" his snide remark did not sting as it once would have, merely reflecting off her. Instead of mulling over his comment she began to think of how ironic it was that he was most likely a know-it-all too, he fitted his multiple descriptions of one perfectly.

Snape was not pleased when her mouth twitched slightly as she hid a smile. His black eyes seemed to burn for a moment.

"Amused?" he asked, a subtle iciness about his voice.

"No," Hermione said as firmly and surely as she could.

His voice changed from accusing to inquiring, "Why are you outside so near to the exams? This is most unlike you." His tone was less icy and more confused. Hermione could feel all her dozing going to waste at the thought of the exams.

" had an "outburst" pretty similar to a nervous breakdown..." she trailed off slowly and lamely. Snape hardly looked surprised. In fact, his look of confusion lifted to be replaced by smugness. Hermione did not ponder this.

"Ah... now that fits your character much better..." he nodded, his black hair swaying. His hair definitely suited his character, she found herself thinking. "What exactly happened?" he asked, pulling his brows together in mock concern.

Hermione found herself tormented by the fact he was her teacher and she would have to answer him. A small amount of color rose in her cheeks. Putting herself in a defensive position, she looked her criticising professor straight in the eye. Taking a deep breath, at the same time wishing him to turn into a toad, she replied.

"I got frustrated with studying so hard from this book..." she began "and when I reread the same word what seems like a million times, I got angry and..." her defensive posture was rapidly disintegrating "...and I kind of... well... I picked up the book and threw it at the wall and screamed..." she looked at her toes, not wanting to hear his distasteful remark but on he contrary, he looked shocked at her behaviour and there was a slight concern she did not catch while staring at her toes.

"Do you know how to transfigure a sofa into a dragon?" His remark surprised her. She did not see its relevance.

With a slight trace of her surprise she answered "Of course!".

"Then that is Transfiguration out of the way, one less thing to concentrate on. Do you know all the spells in a Charming Way to Succeed off by heart? And can you perform them all?" He already knew her answer.

"Yes..." her surprise and confusion was becoming more obvious.

"Well then, Charms is pretty much done too." He glanced at her. "That takes two subjects off of your priority already. You figure out the rest." He then looked at the squid slowly spinning it's tentacles on the surface of the water.

Hermione just sat there, quite shocked, realising he was right. She had pretty much mastered all the contents of the NEWTs before doing her OWLs. This revelation seemed to make a much bigger difference on Hermione than he had intended, though he hardly noticed this.

Then her mind wandered back as to why he was sitting next to her to begin with, but she daren't ask him the reason.

For five minutes there was absolute silence, but it was tense silence. With every second Hermione wanted to get up and leave more and more but felt obliged to stay as long as her professor was there.

She didn't notice the sadness and depression in his eyes which many students had supposed to be a look of emptiness. Today was worse than usual but he was hiding it well.

Finally, after what felt like an age, Snape broke the stillness with another irrelevant question.

"Out of curiosity," his voice had no anger spite or indifference or any emotion whatsoever. Hermione did pick up on that. "you said that it was one word that put you over the edge. May I ask what it was?" Again she knew he wasn't asking.

Hermione thought for a second, she couldn't remember the word and when she finally did she said it before she had even stopped to think. "Potions" she said and a second later clapped her hand over her mouth and looked at him, waiting for him to make her wish herself dead.

But nothing happened. On the contrary, Snape looked at her blankly and then silently rose to his feet and, without a word of farewell, swept off back towards the castle. At least she was honest he thought dully to himself.

Hermione just sat there as she watched his back. She had not expected that. It had been enough to set him off but she didn't understand why it seemed to make him... well... sad wasn't a description that fitted her professor at all, more like downcast and miserable. And it certainly did not seem like a reason for him to leave - not that she wasn't grateful of his disappearance.

But now she felt something other than hatred for her potions master that felt uncannily like pity with a twist of interest. She misjudged this feeling by only a little. She knew that Snape did not need, nor did he care much for pity.

She was blissfully unaware that this was the start of a change in direction, an unwilled alteration of destiny.

She curled herself on her blanket far more comfortably now that she was not under the gaze of piercing black eyes. Her thoughts wandered to her friends and what they were doing at that moment.

As she felt Snape fading from her mind, there was one subconscious part of her that knew something was not right.

This was where it all began.

About 3 days after his encounter with Miss Granger, Severus Snape sat in his study of his chambers.

His chambers were not too large or small with bookshelves in every room. His study had three high-backed green velvet chairs facing the fire, a desk for potion-making, covered with various items of curiosity, and beside a large ebony cabinet, there was a chessboard with dark green marble and pale silver marble pieces. The only light in the room was the fire in the fireplace and an unusually soft orange glow filled the entire room.

His bedroom held a large bed with dark green sheets and a silver rim. The high drapes on either side were an even darker green, on which were hanging silver tassels. Beside his bed, on the black beside table, there was a pile of four books and a small silver statue of a cobra.

And his storeroom need not be described because it was nothing more than a room full of shelves of certain ingredients for potions.

Snape sat in the middle chair, of the three that faced the fire in his study. He was leaning slightly forward, his elbows on the armrests and his head resting on his hands. His raven black hair fell in dark curtains beside his sharp face. His pitch black eyes that resembled caves, appeared even more hollow than usual. His slender pale fingers tapped his cheeks continuously as he stared blankly into the fire.

He felt so empty so miserable that he felt as though his insides had dropped a foot or two. His reluctance to move left him feeling fused to the chair. The mere thought of moving was out of the question.

He still couldn't bring himself to come to terms with the news.

He had known his little sister had been unwell for almost a week. His little sister, Stella, had always stood by him and been there for him, even in his dark days, when his parents had disowned him (not that he cared much about that) and she had always been one of the few he felt close to (the others being Dumbledore and his elder brother – but even his elder brother had not always supported him as she had).

Stella had a graceful intelligence and had an understanding of people that he had never mastered. She would help him in those situations in which such knowledge should be needed, if it should occur.

She had been the only reason he had turned to Dumbledore instead of killing himself after he realised his mistake in joining the Death Eaters.

And now she was gone...

He breathed in deeply at the sudden feeling of his heart being wrung like a wet rag by a pair of strong hands. It hurt too badly. He couldn't bear to stay awake any longer and take this torture.

With a very strained movement, he peeled himself from the green chair and headed over to his work desk. Every movement was a struggle with his mind. He finally got there and slid open the desk drawer. Inside he found several round glass bottles with long necks and stoppers filled with many different colored potions.

He reached forward and picked up the one containing a very clear crystal orange.

Removing the stopper, he flipped his head back and downed the whole thing at once. He placed the empty container on the desk and started over to his bedroom. He only had a few minutes before the potion started to work fully.

It seemed forever until he reached his bed, which he dropped into the sheets, without bothering to change. Finally he would have some release for his constant ache inside him that felt like it would never go away. A very quiet sigh escaped him and he pulled the covers up to his chest.

With a final look at the silver snake beside his bed, he closed his eyes slowly. When he opened them again, it would be morning.

Hermione yawned and stretched, feeling good today after she had been easier on herself and eased some of the studying time from her schedule.

Today everything looked good. Pavarti and Lavender were still asleep in the beds next to her. With a quick look at the time, she flung back the covers and slid out of bed, her feet fitting into her slippers, perfectly placed beside her bed. Skimming across the floor like she was walking on water, she felt as though someone had inflated a balloon in her chest to create a pleasant floating feeling.

She headed for the shower, dumping her clothes for the day on her bed before doing so.

10 minutes later she reappeared with her hair wrapped in a towel.

She shuffled in her fluffy white slippers towards to the large round mirror in the center of the wall facing the beds, ruffling her hair with the towel as she went.

Standing and looking in the mirror she felt the need to look nice today, to match her feelings. She reached for her wand and pointed it at her, performing some drying and curling spells on her hair until she ended up with large curly locks in place of her usual drab frizzy mess. She looked at her work proudly. Today was definitely going to be a fine day.

Heading back to her bed she got dressed into her school robes. Once that was over with, she grabbed her bag and started for the door.

Lavender stirred and looked up at Hermione just as she was about to leave.

"Ooh! Hermione, I love your hair!" she said in wonder, while she removed the night spells she had placed in her own hair. Hermione just smiled in reply. Compliments only added to her good mood. Breakfast was no different than usual. Harry, Ron and Ginny were all discussing the usual, the news, anything interesting and how much they hated Snape and Trelawney.

When Hermione arrived they all looked up. "Love the hair," grinned Ginny enthusiastically. Harry and Ron nodded. Ron had a trace of jam on his nose but she felt it better not to tell him about it this time.

As soon as she sat down then they resumed their conversation.

"So where do you suppose Snape is?" Ron asked as Hermione reached across him to get to the toast. Once she had had her toast, she looked up at the staff table and confirmed that he wasn't there.

"It's a mystery to me, mate," shrugged Harry as he added some sugar and lemon to his pancake. "But all I know is, I'm grateful for whatever reason it is that keeps him as far away from us as possible." Ron nodded violently in agreement.

"Now don't say that," said Ginny, the only one so far who showed any hint of caring, "for all you know it might be something really bad," she added seriously.

"So?" said Ron genuinely raising his eyebrows. Hermione frowned as did Ginny.

"How can you say that? What if he dies or something? Would care even in the slightest?" Hermione snapped, although she did not like Snape, to wish him dead was another thing entirely.

Ron appeared to look thoughtful for a moment, searching for any ounce of compassion. Then he blankly looked at the three of them, "Not really." He then resumed his breakfast. Ginny gave him a disgusted look.

"Really Ron, that is disgraceful, you cold hearted-pig," Ginny growled, "I am ashamed to call you my brother!" Ron looked up with a puppy face from his plate and the discussion broke down as Ginny forgave him.

The subject moved away to other things and Snape was forgotten for the moment.

First lesson of the day was Potions, and it was now obvious to all the students in Hermione's grade, something was seriously wrong. When they had come in, their teacher was nowhere to be found and after half a minute the panic had start to set in.

Snape was late.

There was a constant hum of muttering worried and inquisitive voices. The sound filled the air and made the concern levels sharply rise. Snape had NEVER been late, whatever the circumstances. He had always been waiting for them behind his desk, and he did not appear to be the kind of man who would suddenly break years of habit.

Hermione however was silent, not answering when Harry or Ron asked her opinions on where he could be. Her good day was rapidly turning into a confusing one.

She straightened her robes and leaned back into her chair as she thought. This had been the second time in three days that Snape was acting weirdly. Now she felt she should have concentrated more on his unusual behaviour by the lake, it might hold some answers.

His reaction to a small insult that day she have been a clue enough to point to some emotional misbalance...

She shook her head. The idea of emotions and Snape in her brain felt like two puzzle pieces that refused to fit together.

Just then, a full twenty minutes after class had started, Snape burst in the door. The aged door slammed into the wall in its usual way and the whole class froze.

If they hadn't been under his sight, they would have definitely started muttering again.

Snape's hair was not a wild mess but it also was not neat and straight like they had seen it all their Hogwarts lives. His robes were not crisp and un- creased, not to mention the very light purple ring under each of his eyes. Hermione was sure she heard Lavender gasp.

Although these were little differences that for a normal person would be ignored, they had never seen the slightest hair out of place as long as they could remember.

But what surprised Hermione was the look in his eyes. She had failed to note the sadness in them at the lake and now it was obvious to not just her but the whole class. A thought occurred to her that maybe, all the time they had been sitting in his class under the gaze of his empty black eyes that they had never been empty...

"Today we will be learning how to make a Good Will potion," he started in his normal voice, from which you could not tell that anything was wrong. But his walk continued to give him away. Instead of striding over to his desk with his robes billowing out behind him, he took average sized steps slowly to the front of the class.

With a flick of his wand the steps appeared on the board. "You may begin..." the last word had leaked some of his exhaustion and he sank into his large chair. The class stared at him silently for a moment, then, afraid of a detention or sharp remark, started bustling around, collecting ingredients from the student storeroom.

All the students including Hermione noticed how he had ignored the fact that he was late, offering no explanation. Maybe there was none to give? No, there was definitely something he was hiding.

He did not march up and down the rows and more than once he ignored them completely, even when Neville's cauldron melted, again. He did not even look their way so Harry, Hermione and Ron had to help clean up the mess themselves.

When the bell came, they brought their samples up to the desk as usual, even though this time, he did not ask them to.

Students all dared a glance at their professor once before filing out of the room. The second they left the room, they began to discuss amongst themselves. The noise in the hallway was incredible considering everyone was whispering.

Hermione stayed behind, gesturing Harry and Ron should go on without her. They gave her a questioning look before leaving and finally she was the last in the class.

Slowly, without thinking, she approached the potions master.

He looked right through her when she approached. New hair he thought blankly in the back of his mind better than the usual frizzy mess.

"Er...Professor..." she said hesitantly, as though she was only just starting to realise what she was doing. "Are... are you ok?" His eyes snapped up and fixed up her so sharply she almost jumped. She regretted it almost instantly, what could she have been thinking?

Snape's anger flared inside but his depression overrode it. The nerve that little witch has! But what came out of his mouth was nothing but a sigh.

"Go away, Miss Granger," he said softly, but the threat in it was more than obvious. When she did not move, he gave her a half-hearted glare, but she didn't flinch in the slightest.

"What is it?" he groaned, rubbing his temples with his fingers to prevent a horrible headache.

"I was just wondering... I know the whole class was... what happened?" Hermione pressed, knowing damn well she was pushing it very far. The hatred in his glare became much more readable and visible. Now Hermione did flinch. Normally she wouldn't have expected to even to make it past that sentence, but today he wasn't acting normal.

"I don't see why, Miss Granger, why you should even care?" he hissed gently. Hermione stayed stone silent. He nodded with a small, emotionless smirk. "Now, if you are quite done sticking your nose into other people's business..." Hermione blushed slightly, "please leave and enjoy the rest of your morning off before Charms."

It was at that precise moment that she felt a pang of pity for her grouchy professor. Whatever had happened had left him a different person, almost nicer at the same time a more jealous man. His last sentence had unwillingly given her the impression he was envious of her ability to enjoy herself, carefree.

She decided to quit while she was ahead. With a curt nod to Snape (which surprised him, having expected her to push it further) she turned and walked over to the door. Pushing her now curly hair over her shoulder, she turned back to look at him with her hand on the door handle.

"I'll figure it out in the end. I always do," she said softly with a soft smirk and she pulled the door open and left.

Snape just stared at the door slowly closing behind her with mixed feelings. She had had the exact affect on him she had wanted. He was slightly nervous at what she meant. What else had she figured out; he could only rest on the hopes that it was about stuff other than himself. (His hopes were generally correct, but he could not be certain.)

Damn her! her glowered at the air in which she had just stood and continued to rub his temples gently.

Please R&R!!! Like?

Forgive the lack of excitement as of yet (please bear with me as I try and keep them as much in character as possible).

Of course it will end up with lots of fluff (sigh).

So please review.