Title: The Collection (4/4)

Author: Amethyst

Author E-mail: AmethystJackson (at) hotmail (dot) com

Category: Romance, Drama

Keywords: Harry, Hermione, collection

Rating: PG-13

Spoilers: For all five books, just to be safe

Summary: Hermione has an unusual collection. In this chapter, her collection falls out of its box.

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Author's Note: And so we reach the thrilling conclusion. Thanks for tuning in every four weeks, and I hope this ending satisfies you.

Stay tuned to fanfict00bs ( http:www. livejournal. com/ community/ fanfict00bs ) for more fantabulous fanfiction. There's a wee bit of slash running amok there, but Portkey ships are also a regular occurrence, so pop in every Monday for a nice, relaxing spot of fanfic.

Part 4

She never expected him to find her collection. In hindsight, it was silly and unwise to believe she could keep it from him forever, and when it happened, she was completely taken by surprise.

After she'd recovered and they'd taken their NEWTs and decided upon jobs or further education after Hogwarts, she, Harry, and Ron had finally begun discussing living arrangements.

"We should get a house together, or a flat somewhere in London," said Hermione.

Harry nodded his agreement. His smile wasn't quite a grin, but it was wide enough to show his excitement for the life they were about to begin. Ron alone looked inclined to disagree.

"It would be great, but…I've already made plans to move in with Luna."

Hermione gaped. She'd never known Ron to take much of anything seriously, let alone a relationship with a girl.

"That's fantastic, mate," said Harry. "When did this come about?"

Ron shrugged, blushing to the tips of his ears. "We were talking about it a couple weeks ago, and I suggested it."

"I'm happy for you," Hermione said, and she was.

And so, Harry and Hermione decided to rent an apartment in London, near both the Auror training facilities where Harry would be and the small wizarding university Hermione had been accepted to. Their choice marked the transition to this new life. After seven years of being the Trio, they were finally pairing off – Harry and Hermione, Ron with Luna.

Hermione was aware that this development made it inevitable that she and Harry would confess their feelings. She was even prepared to initiate the conversation, after they'd settled into their new home. She might not even bother with words; she might just kiss him, and that would be enough. What she wasn't prepared for or even expecting was that the situation would be almost completely out of her control.

It happened as they were carrying in their belongings. Hermione was unpacking kitchen items when she heard a crash in the living room: breaking glass and papers hitting the floor and Harry cursing. She knew immediately what had happened.

Rushing out into the living room area, she found Harry sprawled out face down on the floor. He'd tripped over a pile of books, which was also strewn across the floor now, and the box which he'd been carrying – the collection – had flown out of his arms, opened, and spilled its contents onto the floor.

She almost panicked. What if he realized what it was, that all of those objects had been his? How would he react, and what would she tell him? How could she explain it to him when she could hardly explain it to herself? But she forced herself to be calm. She went to him and helped him up, fretting over his broken glasses and waving off his apologies. Perhaps he would not even realize the significance of the pile of apparent junk at his feet. Perhaps she could tuck it away back into its box and hide it forever, as planned.

"I'm such a klutz," he mumbled. "Let me pick that up."

"No, no, don't, I'll get it, it's – "

But it was too late. He'd already turned and seen, and she could tell by the look on his face that he'd recognized some of the objects on the floor as his own. He was kneeling before the mess now, picking up the T-shirt. It really was too late, she realized, panicking, and the damage would not be undone.

He didn't say anything as he sifted through her collection. Watching him, she knew he recognized every single object, from the bent, broken quill to the barely intact book to the ragged green T-shirt. Eventually, he turned to look at her.

"All of these things – they were mine," he said.

She tried to speak clearly and confidently, but it came out in a whisper. "Yes. Yes, they were."

Harry stood, the shirt still clutched in his hand. "Why did you take them, Hermione?" It wasn't angry or accusing, merely puzzled.

"I…I don't even know exactly why," she stammered, unable to meet his eyes. "I think I started doing it in a desperate attempt to hold onto you…like no matter what happened to you, as long as I still had something of you, it wouldn't be real, and so I took little things from you that I didn't think you'd miss. And then I realized there was more to it than that."

She risked a look at him. She'd truly expected him to be angry or disgusted or disturbed or at least look at her funny – but he only appeared to be confused…and hopeful.

It was then that she realized she'd greatly underestimated his love. Though she had enough faith in it to depend upon it to be Voldemort's downfall, she'd somehow been convinced that it could not survive him knowing about some strange, inexplicable thing she'd done – as if he wasn't used to her doing strange, inexplicable things. And now, there he stood, her secret in a shambles at his feet, and all he wanted was to hear that it meant she loved him. What a terrible fool she'd been to think it would matter at all.

"What else was there to it, Hermione?" he ventured.

She smiled, no longer afraid. "I was in love with you, of course."

"You…you were?"

"Yes. I wanted to tell you, but the timing wasn't right. I was afraid it would only make things harder and get in the way."

"I never thought you would return my feelings," he said with a look of such disbelief and joy that she was struck with a sharp stab of guilt for having kept her feelings from him. She could have saved him feeling a world of sadness and self-doubt…

"I know," she said quietly.

"I – what?" Harry blinked.

"I know, Harry. I figured out how you felt sixth year…that's why I wanted to tell you so badly. But the timing wasn't right. I could tell you hadn't really come to terms with your feelings yet, and I didn't want to scare you…and then there was the final battle to worry about, and…like I said, I thought it would only get in the way. I'm so sorry I didn't tell you sooner…can you forgive me?"

He'd merely stared while she'd spoken, but when she stopped, he smiled. "There's nothing to forgive, Hermione."

Suddenly she was in his arms and his lips were on hers. She wound her arms around his neck and his tightened possessively around her waist. She smiled against his mouth as joy like she'd never known before welled up inside of her. This, she knew, was where she belonged. She was home.

He pulled away, looking down at her with a grin, and she wondered at how tall he'd become without her really noticing. He'd become a man without her really noticing….

He pulled away even further, and she found herself surprisingly more disappointed than she would have expected to leave his embrace. She quickly forgot about her disappointment, however, as Harry glanced down at the shirt still clutched in his hand. Grinning, he looked back up at her and asked, "So why'd you take my shirt? I might have wanted it."

"It was so torn up…there was no way you could have worn it anymore…I didn't think it would matter," she said defensively.

"It's just…I was wearing it when I first knew I was in love with you," he said with a small, sentimental smile and a blush.

Hermione grinned back at him. "I took it the night I knew you were in love with me."

"When was that?"

"Sixth year, after the attack, when we were talking that night after you woke up."

Harry's eyes widened in surprise. "You knew then? How?"

She shrugged. "I'm not really sure…It was something about what you said to me and the way you said it…and the look in your eyes. It was different than before."

"God, you know me too well," he said, shaking his head. "I hadn't even come to terms with it yet. I was still struggling with suddenly wanting to kiss you every time you were around."

Hermione laughed. "It's a shame you didn't. We could have put those empty classrooms to better use."

"Mmm, shame we still have unpacking to do. We could put the beds to better use."

"Harry!"

"What?" he said, feigning innocence.

She shook her head, trying to look exasperated with him and probably failing miserably. The trouble was, as she looked him over, she began to agree; they could put the beds to better use…

"Has everything been brought in?" she asked.

"Yes…" he replied, puzzled.

"Come on, then," she said, grabbing his arm and dragging him toward the back of the apartment, stepping over the collection still strewn across the floor.

"…Why? What are we doing?"

"Well, if we're going to sleep tonight, we'll need to have a bedroom to do it in. We need to get sheets on the bed."

"Bedroom? Don't you mean bedrooms?"

"No."

Harry stopped and stared at her, eyebrows lost up in his bangs. "Hermione!"

"Well, it was your idea, Harry," Hermione said, laughing.

"Yes...but I never thought I'd hear you suggesting anything of the sort."

Hermione just rolled her eyes and pulled him into the largest bedroom, the one that was supposed to be hers, and shut the door. They didn't completely finish putting the sheets on until the next day.

- Fin