It all started when Hermione's parents told her they would be going "down South" for a wedding of some cousin she hadn't seen since she was probably three. She had just finished her third year at Columbia and after finally getting back home to Darien, CT, all she had really wanted to do was unwind after the stressful past month of final exams and coming back home.

So, that is how she found herself on a flight from Connecticut to North Carolina to spend the next two weeks in the South with her parents and extended family members she barely knew after being home for barely a week. Fantastic.

. . . . . . . . . .

Having to spend two weeks on a farm was already questionable but upon arrival (after the flight in and another thirty-something minute drive from the airport) to the actual homestead, Hermione found herself inundated with people she barely recognized, even after researching them on Facebook.

The first group to gather her into their overwhelming embrace was the Potters, the ones she was (if tenuously) related to. Hermione's father Robert's brother, her Uncle Michael, had married a woman named Susan Potter, whose brother was James. He had married Lily Evans, and they had later had Harry, who was now marrying Ginny Weasley.

After barely taking the first step out of the car, Hermione found Uncle Michael and Aunt Susan hustling down the front porch of the enormous farmhouse and gathering her and her parents into their embraces.

"Looks like you found the place all right! I know, it's out in the middle of nowhere, isn't it? These Weasleys have an enormous farm with just about everything you could think of on it!" Aunt Susan was still holding Hermione, one arm around her shoulders, despite the slight hunch of her shoulders as she clutched her messenger bag in both hands in a vain attempt to fending off more hugs.

Hermione's father looked up from chatting with his brother, nodding. "It is quite large. I was surprised when we passed the sign and just had to keep driving! That drive is at least two miles long."

"I'm sure you all want to get everything unloaded, so let's head inside out of the sun. You're lucky, it's just now June. It hasn't gotten hot yet!" Uncle Michael and her father laughed before each grabbing some luggage from their rented van and heading into the house. Her mother Helen and Aunt Susan picked up the rest (except for her rolling bag and the still-clutched messenger bag) and went inside as well.

Hermione only stood beside the van, gaping after her relatives who were leaving her behind as they chatted. "This isn't hot yet?"

. . . . . . . . . .

After gathering her bags and hauling them inside, Hermione discovered that she would be sharing a creaky old room with her parents – and that "their" bathroom located across the hall would also be shared with three of seven of her future cousin-in-laws, some of whom she met upon leaving the quiet haven of their bedroom.

"You must be Hermione!"

"Harry's little cousin - "

"From up North!"

Her eyes grew wide as she stared up at the two (almost completely) identical redheads towering over her. "Yes? I mean, yes, I am Hermione. But I am older than Harry, by a bit."

The two exchanged a big grin before looking down (and down) at her. "Maybe, but you - "

"- are definitely little."

"Itsy, in fact."

Hermione huffed and planted her fists on her hips. "And who exactly are you? From the hair, you must be Weasleys." Her whisky brown eyes narrowed at the twins who laughed at her words.

"We'll introduce you to Malfoy at the wedding."

"And yes! We are Fred - "

"- and George -"

"- Weasley!" Arms were stretched out to take up the entire width of the narrow hallway; both men bowed to her in the most flamboyant way she (and obviously they) could imagine before a shrill voice broke in.

"Boys! You leave Hermione alone; she's just getting settled in!" A plump, matronly woman came into the hallway, waving the boys down the hall before turning to Hermione with a beaming smile. "Hermione! My goodness, you've gotten so big! Look at you!" She reached out and grabbed the poor girl, dragging her into a smothering hug between the older woman's breasts, before she could break away with a gasp. "I'm Molly, those two troublemaker's, and all the other's mother. We are just so glad you could make it down for the wedding!"

Hermione tried to smile, knew she failed and just tried nodding. "Yes, thank you for having me."

"Nonsense! We'll be family after Saturday. No thanks needed for the family. Come on, let's get down to the kitchen and get you something to eat." Molly smiled brightly and pulled Hermione along down the stairs.

. . . . . . . . . .

Lunch consisted of cold leftover ham sliced up for sandwiches, chips and pickles, and lots of sweet tea. Hermione could only stare at the three giant pitchers left out on the counter, watching the assorted redheads in the room constantly circling through with their assorted (mismatched) glasses, constantly refilling them with more tea.

After much protesting and being practically force-fed a sandwich and a handful of chips by Molly, Hermione slipped out of the kitchen and into the living room with a relieved sigh only to be brought up short be an exuberant shout and yet another pair of arms throwing themselves around her.

"Hermione! You made it!" Harry pulled back and grinned down at her boyishly. "Sorry, I know it's been forever since we've seen each other, but I'm just glad you could make it." He turned and motioned with one tanned. "Ginny, this is my cousin, Hermione. Hermione, my fiancée, Ginny." He grinned proudly between the two young women.

Ginny, it turned out, was only a year younger than Harry and Hermione, and a truly pretty redhead with long shiny hair (that Hermione automatically hates in comparison to her own) and big brown eyes and a pretty Southern accent, in comparison to the others in her family. Molly, in particular, could be difficult to understand, especially when she started yelling (hollerin') at the twins.

"I'm so glad to finally meet you! Harry has told me some of the stories of you two bein' kids, but I'm glad you got to make it down." Ginny grinned brightly and reached over to give Hermione (yet another) hug, once Harry stepped aside.

Hermione nodded. "Yeah, it's been at least sixteen years? We're friends on Facebook, and all that, but we haven't been in the same room since kindergarten, at least."

"But you're here now, and that's what counts!" Ginny laughed and glanced over at the kitchen as a particularly loud blast of laughter made Hermione twitch. "Look, we were going to head out to Malfoy Farms to check on my horse and confirm the stabling for the honeymoon. Would you like to come with us? Get out of the house for a bit?"

Hermione heaved a sigh and grabbed Ginny's arm. "Could I, please? That would just be… fantastic."

Harry snorted out a laugh before nodding. "I'll let the others know we're taking you. I doubt I'll be back before you're done changing!" He winked to Ginny before turning and walking into the kitchen, followed a moment later by a loud cheer, presumably to greet the soon-to-be groom's entrance.

Hermione turned to Ginny with a frown. "Should I change? What's wrong with this?" She motions down at her pink summer dress and brown flats.

Ginny shrugged. "Well, you don't have to. It's not like you're going to be riding, but it is pretty dirty out there. We'll have to walk into the stables, and there's hay and all sorts of other things. Up to you."

She sighed and looked down at herself for a long moment with a frown. "I brought a pair of jeans, but I don't think I have any better shoes?"

Ginny narrowed her eyes at her feet for a moment then motioned. "Come on, I think I may have a pair of boots that'll fit." She grabbed Hermione's hand and dragged her up the stairs to change.

. . . . . . . . . .

After a quick change (the worn cowboy boots fit, just a touch on the big side), Hermione rode with Harry and Ginny in his pickup truck up the road to Malfoy Farms. "Up the road" turned out to be almost thirty minutes away and across the state line.

Ginny was apparently a big-time dressage rider; she had even gone to the last Olympics although she didn't medal and, while they had a small stable at the Weasley farm, decided to stable her ridiculously well-bred (and expensive) Westphalian at Malfoy Farm while she was gone on her honeymoon.

After pulling up to an even bigger farmhouse than the Weasley's, the trio made their way around the building to what appeared (to Hermione) to be the largest stable in the South. The two closest buildings were humongous, and she could spot what looked to be two others on the far side before her eyes reached the acres and acres of fenced pasture.

"Wow. This is impressive!" Hermione looked around with wide eyes.

Harry snorted and shrugged. "They have one of the largest stables in the area, but it doesn't make up for their attitude."

Ginny laughed as they approached the closest stable door. "Well, maybe. They do have this kind of uppity attitude, but they're old horse blood. They've been breeding horses for ages! Harry just likes to remind me that I went on one date with their son before I started dating him. And nevermind that he's dating some girl in town now."

Hermione arched her brows at Harry, who merely rolled his eyes with a muttered, "You'll see."

She chuckled and followed through the door after Ginny while Harry held it up for them and came through last. The inside was dimmer in comparison to the bright Southern sun, but still well lit from large windows high near the roof and lights suspended from the ceiling. It smelt of hay and water and horse, causing Hermione's nose to wrinkle slightly at the unfamiliar scents.

A few moments after walking in, a voice spoke up from behind them. "I saw you walking up from the house, Weaslette. Potter."

Hermione spun around in surprise, her eyes widening at the young man standing in front of them, hands tucked into his jeans and smirking at them. This was the son? He was quite pretty if pointy, with disheveled blond hair and piercing gray eyes.

Harry narrowed his eyes and cleared his throat. "Malfoy. Ginny just wanted to come by and make sure everything was good to go for Vixen."

The other boy's smirk had widened even more at Harry's words before his eyes flickered to Hermione then Ginny. "Of course. Füschin is all set up in one of the guest box stalls down in the end. She's in right now if you want to visit with her."

Ginny chuckled and looped her arm through Hermione's, pulling her along. "Perfect, thank you, Draco!" Without another look-back, the redhead pulls Hermione along with her with a soft laugh. "Harry can't stand Draco, obviously. They've never gotten along. Don't let their posturin' bug you."

Hermione snorted and glanced back over her shoulder, seeing Draco still standing there with a smirk while Harry was only a few steps behind the two girls. "They're boys, I can't expect them to behave maturely."

Ginny laughed at her words before bounding over to the stall. "Vixen! Hello, my love!" A white nose had popped out from the stall before the whole massive head of the Westphalian followed to bump against Ginny's shoulder, snuffling at her hair and making the other girl laugh.

Harry stopped beside Hermione with a sheepish grin in her direction. "Sorry 'bout that. Anyway, this is Vixen. Her official name is some ridiculously long German mess that Ginny will be able to tell you later."

Hermione quirked her brows at Harry curiously. "Vixen? Then what did the other one, Draco, call her?"

He rolled his green eyes and huffed. "Füschin. It's part of her official name, but it's German for vixen. He thinks he's so special, snobby ass. They all call the horses something based on their full names, instead of stable names like normal people."

Hermione grinned at her cousin for a moment before letting out a soft laugh. "Yeah, I get it." She looked back over to Ginny, who was grinning and scratching her very happy horse's nose. "I know nothing about horses, but she's quite pretty, Ginny. Her coat practically matches your hair."

Ginny nodded and hugged Vixen around the neck lightly. "That's where her name comes from, especially when she was younger; she was red like a fox! And she's sly, too." She laughed as the horse nudged Ginny's shoulder, sniffling at her pockets. "Sorry, love, no apples with me today."

Hermione chuckled and glanced around the stable, taking in the tack hanging neatly on the hooks, brooms, and buckets all seemed to be in their particular locations. "This seems like a nice stable?"

Harry laughed, "Oh, it is. Very nice! Ridiculously expensive, too."

Ginny glared at her fiancé, "But worth every penny for my precious girl. So hush."

Hermione laughed and shook her head, moving towards the open doors another two stalls down. "Sounds like you have some competition, Harry."

"I do; she loves that horse more than- HEY! OW! Damnit!" Harry yelped in pain, causing Hermione to whirl back around to her cousin.

Ginny had started laughing, walking over to her fiancé. "You should know better than to stand that close to his stall! He hates you as much as his owner does."

Hermione relaxed as Ginny checked Harry's arm and pronounced it unhurt, before she looked over to notice the huge, streamlined black head hanging from the stall door beside Vixen. "What is that?"

Ginny looked up and smirked. "That is a Hanoverian. His name is Drachenfeuer 'though most everyone around here just calls him Draco. He is, obviously, Draco's horse."

Hermione turned wide eyes to Ginny before laughing. "Are you serious? Oh my, goodness!" She looked at the horse again then turned to Harry. "And it bit you? Are you ok?"

Suddenly, a smooth, deep voice spoke up from the open doors. "Did Drachenfeuer bite you again, Mr. Potter? One would think that you would have learned to stay away from his stall. He does seem to hold some slight against you."

Hermione's eyes widened as she took in the appearance of the man standing a few feet away. He was tall, with neatly trimmed pale blond hair that seemed more white than blond. He also appeared to be a much older, less pointy version of Draco, complete with a few fine lines at the corners of his mouth and eyes.

"Mr. Malfoy! It is so good to see you again. Thank you again for allowing us to stable Vixen with you, I really appreciate it. I know she'll be very well taken care of here." Ginny stepped forward with a smile, looping her arm through Harry's and pulling him close to her side. "We were just checking in with her before the weekend got going."

The older Mr. Malfoy had nodded once in reply before his pale eyes moved to Hermione. "And who have you brought along with you, Ms. Weasley?"

"Oh, sorry! This is Harry's cousin Hermione Granger. She's down for the wedding, from Connecticut." Ginny motioned towards Hermione with a small smile.

His eyes pinned her down, as he looked her over closely before nodding again. "A pleasure, Ms. Granger. Abraxas Malfoy. I do believe you met my grandson earlier. My son and his wife are out of the country. Otherwise, I would have been sure to introduce you."

Hermione smiled brightly, taking a small step closer to the older man with a small bob. "Oh, well, I will be here for a few weeks. Maybe I will have a chance to meet them another time."

"Mm. Perhaps so." He cleared his throat and nodded. "I must be going. Ms. Granger, Ms. Weasley, Mr. Potter. Have a good afternoon." Abraxas strode past them and towards the house, disappearing through one of the other doors.

"Creepy old man. He's always so stiff upper lip. The British in their family was back before the Revolution, you'd think he'd loosen up some by now." Harry rolled his eyes.

Ginny snorted and tugged on his arm. "That's not going to happen, you know. Come on, let's see if they're training any of the horses! Hermione will want to see!"

The Hermione in question arched a brow and sighed, but dutifully followed after the couple out the open doors and back into the bright sunlight. Squinting and raising a hand to cover her eyes, she looked around half-blind as they walked over to the fence closest to the stable. Ginny leaned over it and looked up and down the pasture before pointing to the left, some ways away.

"There! Looks like Tom and Theo are out there with one of the new stallions."

Hermione stepped up on Ginny's other side from Harry, following the direction of her finger. "Hm? I don't know what they're doing, and it's kind of far away, but I guess that looks… interesting." She watched as the two men worked with what appeared to be a young horse, one holding the lead and the other sitting on top of the fence around the enclosure.

The younger of the two, the one holding the lead, seemed to be talking to the one sitting on the fence while he was directing the stallion. The older on the fence seemed to be ignoring everything the other man was saying, his eyes fixed on the horse.

"Ugh. Riddle. Don't know why he bothers coming over here, he has his own farm." Harry growled and glared down towards the two men, before pushing away from the fence.

Hermione snorted and looked over to her cousin. "What's wrong with him? Did Ginny date him too?"

Ginny laughed loudly, throwing her head back. "What?! No way! I mean, Tom is, like, ridiculously hot. Like, whoa there kind of hot, but I wouldn't date him. Not that you aren't hot too, babe." She grinned at Harry, who merely glared at her.

"What's wrong with him, then?" Hermione's eyebrows furrow at she glances at her cousin and his fiancée, before looking over her shoulder and back towards the two men and the horse that was now rolling around on the ground and kicking up yellowish clouds of dust.

"Nothing, really. He's just a bit… intense. I don't know; his family is from another farm across the way, and his daddy is kind of well known for, you know, strayin'. He couldn't keep it in his pants whenever a woman was around. But Tom's mom died, and he's Tom Senior's only kid, so he took him in." Ginny glanced back as well before tugging Hermione along after Harry, who was stomping off towards his truck.

"Oh, that's just sad." Hermione looked back again, noticing that the two men had stopped watching the horse and were now watching the two girls.

"Maybe, but either way, he's got a bit of an attitude. Maybe you'll meet him, he should be at the wedding." Ginny smiled at Hermione before the three got back into the truck and was headed back down the road to the Weasley farm.

. . . . . . . . . .

The rest of that day passed by in a blur until Hermione could finally collapse into her small bed in the room she shared with her parents. Something about the Southern air had everyone, even Hermione, in bed by eight p.m. that night.

When there were people pounding up and down the stairs just after dawn the next morning, Hermione groaned and buried her head further into her pillow. Even her parents were getting up and moving around, the sun filtering through the thin eyelet cotton curtains – she wasn't sure why someone had bothered to hang them; they hadn't blocked anything, not even weak starlight.

Only after her mother had shaken her shoulder gently to tell, her breakfast was almost ready did she finally crawl out from underneath the pretty rose and cream quilt. After a quick scrub in the shower and throwing on a cotton sundress and flats, and struggling to pull her wild hair back into a thick braid to keep it out of her face, she made her way down to the kitchen.

Upon arrival, she briefly debated just turning around and going back upstairs. There seemed to be easily one hundred people in the kitchen, half of them with red hair and all of them boisterous. Unfortunately, Harry saw her and called out her name, which made at least thirty people turn to look at her with a 'good morning!' Sighing quietly, she made her way around the large table and squeezed in between Harry and one of the other Weasley clan members.

"Mornin', 'Mione! Get some food, there's plenty left." Harry smiled at her before handing her a mug. "Here, coffee's in the blue pitcher there."

A throat clearing thickly on her other side made her turn from her cousin and eye the red-faced Weasley, who then spoke up with a thick drawling accent – he must have gotten it from his mother. "Ah, hi there. I'm Ron, Harry's best man."

"Oh! Nice to meet you, I'm Hermione, Harry's cousin." She smiled briefly before looking back to her plate as she picked through the piles of fried ham and fried eggs and grits for a few pieces of thick bacon and some cut up fruit.

"So, you're from up north, eh?" Ron leaned over towards her, speaking through a mouth full of food. "Connecticut, right? Never been up that far north."

Hermione's nose wrinkled at his lack of manners, and she slid another inch closer to Harry on the bench (a bench at a kitchen table, really?). "Surprising. And yes, that's right, I'm from Connecticut. Going back after the wedding and all that."

Molly hustled up behind the group and leaned over Hermione to place a plate with a gigantic biscuit heaped with fig preserves in front of her. "Here, darlin', eat up! It's a busy day today though most of you youngin's are going to be off doing your own things. Harry, Ron, be sure to take Hermione with ya'll, whatever you're doin'." She pierced her child and soon-to-be child with a stern look before moving off to yell at a group clustered together at the end of the table that looked to be made up of the twins and a few of their friends.

Harry chuckled and patted Hermione's arm. "We were going to go down to the creek and go swimming after breakfast before Molly could rope us into something wedding oriented. Coming with us?"

Hermione glanced sidelong at Ron, before looking back to her cousin quickly once she spotted the wide, hopeful puppy dog look on the redhead's face. "Who all is 'us,' exactly?"

Harry laughed and tilted his head. "Well. You, me, Ginny, Ron there, probably Fred and George, Angelina, Katie, Lee, Luna – you'll just love her – Seamus, Dean, Lavender, Neville may be coming by with Luna… and whoever else wants to come, probably."

Hermione's eyes widened as he rattled off the list of names. "I suppose I can come; I was just going to do some light reading for my differential equations class." She swallowed another bite of her fruit, before breaking off a small piece of biscuit and fig with her fork for a bit. "Mmm, that's really good."

Her cousin grinned and shook his head. "Of course it is, Molly's the best cook around. She's making pretty much everything for the wedding and the reception. She's amazing. And you aren't going to stay here reading about math the whole time. You finish up, and then meet us back down here with your swimsuit on. We've got all the outside towels in the truck already."

Outside towels? Hermione arched a brow then sighed and nodded. "Yes, sir! I'll be back in a few minutes, then." She took another big bite of the still warm biscuit with a soft groan before hopping up and going upstairs to change.

Later, after all was said and done, she couldn't have said that she would have preferred going to the creek – but hanging out in the sun with Ginny and swinging off of the rope to jump into the cool rushing water and eating fresh strawberries from the plants in the woods that the silly girl Luna and her boyfriend Neville kept managing to find definitely was better than staying at the house.

. . . . . . . . . .

Finally, the day before the wedding arrived. For four days since their arrival, Hermione had been dragged along to all kinds of spots though she was still fairly shocked that almost all of them were still on the Weasley property. They had returned to the creek again the day after the first trip and returned just as exhausted and sun-baked that she was asleep by eight p.m. again that night.

On the plus side, all of the time outside had kick-started what would end up being a fairly great tan – as well as the freckles spreading across her nose and cheeks and shoulders.

On the downside, Ron seemed to be following her around like a puppy dog and Harry kept encouraging him until Hermione was ready to kill the messy haired little meddler. Luckily, he also seemed fairly distracted by that Lavender girl anytime she passed by, and Hermione figured avoiding any time alone with the boy for the foreseeable future wouldn't be that difficult.

That night, the younger crowd all loaded up into a truck or car, and they drove through the Weasley land until they finally reached an old barn. When everyone unloaded and dragged out the coolers, Hermione finally approached Luna and Neville with a small frown.

"What exactly are we doing here?" She looked around warily, especially at the twins who had recruited their friend Lee to help them build what was promising to be a gigantic bonfire.

Luna grinned dreamily and plucked a few bits of tall waving grass before she began weaving it together. "It's a party, Hermione."

Neville snorted and laughed at his girlfriend. "Yeah, it's a party. Kind of a joint bachelor-slash-bachelorette party. Harry and Ginny do pretty much everything together, you've seen, and they decided instead of two separate parties, to do it all up in one out here at the old barn."

Hermione blinked at the two slowly before nodding. "Oh. All right then. I suppose I can see the sense in that." She smiled before turning around to watch the growing gathering around the pile of wood that Fred (or was it George?) was attempting to light on fire. "This isn't going to end well, is it?"

Neville laughed again and shrugged. "Eh, maybe. The twins are remarkably good with fire; they haven't burned anything down yet."

Yet. Hermione grimaced then turned again as a drawling voice spoke up from just to the side. "Those ginger idiots are going to burn everything down. Maybe it is a good thing we came." Draco Malfoy walked over to the small group with a smirk, glancing over Hermione before nodding. "Longbottom. Lovegood. Still hunting for snipes?"

Neville rolled his eyes at Malfoy. "Ha, ha, Malfoy. Funny. What are you doing out here? And where's your entourage?"

Draco smirked and nodded over towards where a few new faces had gathered around the starting bonfire. "Probably about to singe their eyebrows off. Crabbe and Goyle there, Blaise and Theo came along. Riddle was going to come but had to get back to his farm, some emergency."

Hermione perked up and looked at Draco again. "Tom Riddle? I've heard about him; I was looking forward to meeting him."

Two blond brows rose as he started at Hermione for a long moment before laughing. "Yeah? You want to meet Tom? Good luck with that. He's not exactly known for his, well, he's not the easiest of guys to get along with."

She frowned at Draco, tilting her head. "Why not?"

"Well. He's had a bit of a rough life. He's a bit older than me, us, so it's not like we've sat down and had a heart to heart, you know. But I've heard things from my father and some of the others. He's fairly set in his ways."

Hermione frowned deeper, opening her mouth to ask another question, before the man she recognized as Theo and a dark-skinned man walked up to the group with their arms full of bottles. "Beer, ladies and gentlemen!" They passed the bottles around the group, pushing one into Hermione's hand as she frowned down at it thoughtfully.

Theo grinned before narrowing his eyes at Hermione. "Oh, do you not drink?"

She looked up at him startled, "What? I mean, I have… I just… don't much. I'm not 21 yet."

Theo stared at her for a moment before laughing loudly. "I don't think half the people here are of age! Don't drink if you don't want to, but don't let your age stop you if you want to." He grinned at her before walking over to the worn bench that Blaise was sitting on, dropping down beside him.

Hermione sighed and looked down at the bottle for a long moment before taking a swig, her nose wrinkling slightly at the taste. Draco smirked at her before walking over to his friends while Luna giggled and offered her a large jar. "I've got this if you'd rather, Hermione."

Looking over to see Neville shaking his head vehemently before looking back to Luna, she peered through the flickering light from the fire at the jar curiously. "What, exactly, is that, Luna?"

Luna grinned proudly, "Blueberry moonshine." Hermione's eyes bulged a bit as she looked back up to the (supposedly!) ditzy blonde.

"Seriously?! I've never had moonshine; I've just heard stories…"

The blonde held it out with arched brows. "Here, try it. Just a sip."

Hermione had gulped nervously, frozen, before she noticed the three boys on the bench not far away, watching her closely. Bolstering herself, she licked her lips before swapping Luna her beer for the jar. "Just… drink it from the jar?" She squints at it before looking at the other girl. Seeing her nod, and resolutely ignoring Neville's huge eyes and the gazes from the other three, Hermione nodded herself. "Alright… here we go!"

Squeezing her eyes shut tight, she carefully took a sip…, which turned into a cough as the burning liquid hit her throat, and she jerked, causing an extra swallow to splash into her mouth.

Luna took the jar back as Neville pounded on Hermione's back as she coughed and hacked, Draco, Theo, and Blaise laughing uproariously from their perch.

Clearing her throat and wiping her watering eyes, Hermione straightened back up carefully. "Oh my God, that's horrible!" She grabbed her beer and took a gulp in the vain attempt to wash away the burn left behind by the moonshine.

"Easy there, Hermione. That stuff will sneak up on you!" Neville sounded like he was trying his best to hold in his laughter, unlike the three still snorting over nearby.

"Thank you, Luna, but I think I'll stick with my beer." She shook her head and glared over at Draco, Theo, and Blaise, which only seemed to make them burst into another round of laughter. "I'm going to go check in with Harry and Ginny. I'm afraid Molly thinks they're going to be too hungover to get married tomorrow." She smiled and began walking away, pausing as the movement sent that peculiar feeling of warm tingles of the freshly drunk through her body.

After regaining her balance, she walked around the bonfire until she spotted Harry and Ginny snuggled up together on the ground, sharing what appeared to be a bottle of wine between them.

Hermione smirked as she nudged her cousin's booted foot. "Don't get too drunk, I'm afraid Molly seemed to expect me to watch you like a hawk, so you aren't too hungover for tomorrow."

Ginny laughed and grinned up at Hermione, reaching up and dragging her down beside her to the ground. "Come sit with us! And we've already made a pact: we are sharing this bottle of wine and maybe a beer each, and then we're stopping. Promise."

Harry nodded in agreement as he took a swig from the bottle. "Yup! You don't have to worry 'bout us, 'Mione. 'Sides, you're here to have fun, too."

Hermione laughed at that, shaking her hair back from her face before swaying from the movement, another wave of dizziness passing over her. "Oh, I'm afraid Luna already convinced me to try her moonshine. I just hope I don't get sick."

Ginny began laughing hysterically while Harry leaned over to peer at Hermione with wide eyes. "You drank Luna's moonshine? Holy shit! Don't drink anything else! That stuff is lethal!"

Hermione sighed deeply before giggling a little. "Now someone tells me. Great. I didn't have much, so maybe I'll be alright?"

Harry shook his head slowly. "Maybe, but something about Luna's moonshine… it's potent."

Harry's words turned out to be true. Over the next twenty minutes, Hermione managed (despite only two swallows of moonshine and most of a bottle of beer) to become fairly drunk.

She was drunk enough that when she spotted the tall, great looking, dark haired, green eyed, gorgeous tree of a man that she recognized as Tom Riddle talking to Draco and his friends, she made her way over towards the group without another thought.

"So, you are Tom Riddle!"

The man in question paused while speaking and turned to look down at Hermione. Now that she was closer, all she could think was just – this is unfair, he's GORGEOUS.

His green eyes met her brown before looking her over slowly. "Yes, I am. 'Fraid you've got me at a disadvantage though." He glanced at the men he was speaking with before looking back to Hermione.

She gulped, her fingers twitching around her mostly empty beer bottle. And his voice. Why isn't there someone like him back home? It was thick and sweet, drawling like honey dripping from hot toast. She must have just been staring at him for a long moment because his brows arched as he leaned down towards her. "Are you alright, ma'am?"

Hermione whimpered softly before nodding. "Sorry, sorry! Yes, I'm… a bit hot. Sorry. Luna gave me some moonshine, and it seems to have hit me a bit harder than I expected? I don't drink much, and you're just so… pretty." She bit down on her lip as the words escaped her mouth, eyes widening as he started laughing.

"Luna Lovegood? There should be special laws just for her moonshine, it's lethal." Tom had smirked before he reached out to cup her elbow. "You're weaving, c'mon. Let's sit down, and you can tell me more about how pretty you think I am." He chuckled again and tugged her over to a pile of old wooden utility poles with a couple of thick blankets thrown over them. "Here, sit."

Hermione dropped down onto the pile, wincing and squirming a little as he sits down beside her. "I'm so sorry; I'm just babbling. Apparently I can't control my mouth when I've been drinking." She blushed and bit her lip, looking up at Tom as he smirked.

"Apparently. That's all right. I think I can forgive you for the flattery. You aren't about to throw up on me, are you?" He narrowed his eyes and watched her for a long moment.

She swallowed then shook her head. "No, no throwing up. I promise." She smiled up to him before leaning back against the blanket.

Tom grinned slowly, his eyes gleaming in the firelight from the huge bonfire as they traveled down to pause on her lips before flicking back up to her eyes. "Excellent."

. . . . . . . . . .

Over the course of the next two hours, Tom and Hermione ignored everything else around them as they chatted. The alcohol had begun to wear off after the first hour while Tom nursed a couple of beers the entire time.

It was hard for Hermione to focus on his words, as his voice was so distracting. On most of the others, that Southern accent was overblown and cliché – but coming from Tom's lips, it was delicious and she wanted to see if it tasted as good as it sounded.

Not only his voice but also he was just gorgeous; shining green eyes in a tanned face, wavy dark brown hair brushed back. The green and black flannel shirt was form fitting, rolled up to show off his ropey and muscular tanned arms, his jeans tight and showing off a truly squeezable bottom.

What is wrong with me? Hermione could only blush and watched as Tom watched her; grinning knowingly and making her blush even more.

The fire was beginning to die down by the time they looked away from one another and noticed that the majority of the party had disappeared to who knew where. Hermione knew that Harry was going home with Neville to his place while Ginny was going home, and the three of them as well as Luna, were nowhere to be seen, which was a small problem.

"Shit." Hermione straightened up, and Tom quirked his brows at her. "Sorry, but I just realized that Harry and Ginny all left. I rode here with them."

He chuckled and stood up, brushing his hands on his jeans before reaching out to her. "Come on, I'll take you back. You're staying with the Weasleys, you said?"

She stared for a long moment at his hand before reaching out and taking it, standing up with his assistance. "Yes, I am. I can't ask you to do that, it's pretty far out of your way, I know."

Tom smirked and tugged her closer, his head tilting down towards hers so that his breath stirred the loose hairs on her forehead. "You're not asking, I'm offerin'. And I won't take no for an answer."

Hermione blushed even more (was there anything left to blush?) and tilted her head back to look up into his eyes. "Well. Thank you, then."

He tilted his head slightly more before stepping back. "Come on, let's get you home before Ms. Molly comes huntin' everyone down."

She bit down on her lip to hold in the soft whine of disappointment when he stepped away, though she smiled through it when he did not let go of her hand as he led her over to his shiny black truck. He helped her up into it, his hands lingering on her arm and hip for a moment longer than necessary before closing the door and walking around to climb in himself. Another moment later, they were on their way down the dirt road, heading back to the farmhouse.

After the drive back to the farmhouse, the only sound having been the wind rushing past the open windows and the crunch of dirt and gravel under the truck tires, Tom hopped out of the truck and was around with the door open before Hermione could find the handle. He grinned up at her, teeth gleaming in the moonlight, as he helped her down from the truck.

"Here we are, safe and sound, and all in one piece." He pushed the door closed before walking up to the porch with her, still holding onto her hand.

"Thank you for the ride, I'm sure I could've gotten one with someone else but I really appreciate it." Hermione stopped on the top step of the porch, turning to look at him, almost eye-level with him from his vantage.

Tom smirked and shrugged, stepping close to her without climbing the steps. "Maybe, but I have a feeling a good number of those folks'll be crawling back to the house after the sun comes up." He chuckled and tilted his head down, looking at her closely.

"I suppose I'll see you around then?" Hermione looked up at him with wide eyes; her fingers still curled around his.

His face relaxed a bit, his lips softening into a smile. "Yeah, you'll see me around. I'll be at the wedding later. Save me a dance?"

Hermione laughed softly and glanced down at their hands before looking back up to him again. "I don't know how many will be claimed, but definitely… you'll definitely get a dance."

"Just one dance?" He grinned, his head tilting as he pulled gently at her arm and moved even closer to her.

She swallowed nervously, her tongue wetting her lips as she practically whispers, "More than one. Five or six, at least."

He nodded slowly, "Good. At least." He leaned in and pressed his mouth to hers, his fingers squeezing hers.

Hermione's eyes widened in surprise as his lips met hers before she pushed up onto her toes and wrapped her free arm around his neck, kissing him back. He tasted as good as she imagined he would, as good as he sounded.

His tongue brushed gently against her lower lip as his free hand settled on her hip, squeezing through the soft cotton of her dress as he kissed her for another breathless moment. When he pulled back, he licked his lips slowly before grinning down at her, sharp and gleaming. "At least five or six."

She nodded slowly, the tip of her tongue touching her lower lip for a moment before she smiled. "Yes, at least."

Tom chuckled, leaning down and lightly brushing his lips against her forehead, his fingers squeezing her hip firmly one more time before he slowly stepped away. "See you later, then."

"Yep, see you later." She grinned as she bit down on her thumb, watching him as he stepped back once more before chuckling and getting back into his truck and driving off.

Hermione looked up at the sky with a soft giggle before she turned and headed back into the house and up to bed. Maybe the South isn't so bad.

. . . . . . . . . .

The next afternoon was the wedding. And Hermione stood to the side after the wedding (an outdoor wedding, in what was essentially the backyard), watching everything with wide eyes.

The groom and groomsmen were wearing Sperry boat shoes. The bridesmaids wore color-coordinated Jack Rogers flip-flops. Even the bride had on cowboy boots stitched with the wedding colors (lavender and buttercream and gold) that Hermione overhead Ginny telling another wedding guest at the reception that they had been handmade just for the wedding.

And the reception.

The reception was held in a barn. With huge trestle tables and benches, none of the plateware matched. And she was fairly sure she saw some plastic utensils stacked on one of the buffet tables (buffet. tables.)

Hermione sighed and took a sip of her wine, her eyes drifting around the reception. Everyone seemed to be having a great time, but she had yet to see Tom, despite his saying that he would be there.

She sighed again and, noticing Ron heading her way, quickly weaved through the tables to slip outside and around the barn. The sun was beginning to set and was creating a golden shine on the tall grass swaying in the wind. She leaned against the barn and took another swallow of her wine, closing her eyes and soaking in the sunshine.

There was a long quiet moment, and then, "You know, you'll get cancer if you stay out in the sun like that."

Her eyes flew open at the sound of Tom's voice, and she whirled around to gape up at him. "Tom?" She could barely absorb the sight of him in front of her (wearing snug khakis, a pale blue and white checked shirt with the always rolled-up sleeves and those ugly boat shoes that still somehow still looked so good on him, and a pair of aviator sunglasses tucked into the pocket of his shirt.)

He tilted his head and grinned, "Yeah? I did tell you I'd be here."

Hermione stared at him for another moment before throwing herself at him, her arms wrapping around his neck as her legs wrap around his waist. "I'm so glad you made it!"

Tom grunted softly as he wrapped his arms around her, shocked. "Hermione! Are you alright?"

"Oh, I'm fine, apparently just trying to embarrass myself horrifically around you whenever possible." She buried her face into his neck, laughing softly against his skin.

He laughed quietly, right beside her ear, as he adjusted his arms to heft her up closer. "Oh, yes, please continue embarrassing yourself in front of me. Just more ammunition for later, darlin'." One arm curled under her ass, and he turned, pressing her back against the warm red painted wood of the barn.

She let her head fall back and looked up at him, biting her bottom lip with a coy smile. "I'm sure I will, don't worry." She wiggles her hips against his a little as she tightened her arms around his neck.

Tom arched a brow and shifted, pressing closer against her between his hard body and the barn. His hand moved to the hem of her mint green, knee-length dress, skimming the skin of her bare thigh just at the edge of her panties. "You, ma'am, are a great deal of trouble." He pushed against the cradle of her legs, grinding his erection against her center.

Hermione chuckled softly and ran her fingers through the soft dark hair at his neck, as she arched into him. "Only around you." She grinned then glanced up at the open hayloft door. "I think maybe we should find some place… quieter." Her dark eyes moved back to his, glittering in the sunshine.

He laughed softly against her hair before stepping back and carefully setting her on her feet. "Lead on, trouble." She only giggled and grabbed his hand, practically dragging him from behind the barn and around to the huge, wide opened doors. Sneaking around the edge of the inside, she pulled him to the stairs leading up to the hayloft, with a single rope "barring" the steps.

Once they reached the top of the stairs, Tom grabbed Hermione and hauled her up over her shoulder with a snicker, quickly moving to the back corner of the hayloft, as far from the open edge as possible before he carefully pulled her back around and braced her against the wall. "Come here, sweetheart. Let me taste you." His mouth pressed down against hers, resuming their earlier kiss. His tongue brushed over her lips as she clutched at his shoulders.

She whined softly into his mouth as she squirmed against his hold. Her fingers raked through his hair, scraping his scalp with her nails and making his hips grind into hers.

Tom pulled back and growled softly, his mouth nipping at her neck. "You are so sweet, you taste like sunshine and honey and berries. I cannot get enough of you." He dragged his tongue along her collarbone, hitching her up higher on the wall.

Hermione gasped, her head arching back with a soft thud against the wood. "Please…!"

He tugged at the collar of her dress, dragging the cloth as far down as possible, which was not even close enough for either of their satisfaction. His teeth nipped at the swell of her breast as he ground his swollen cock into her panty-covered cunt. "Please, what, darlin'?" He dragged his tongue over the bite, soothing the red skin.

She squirmed and dropped her feet the floor before pushing him to sit down on a nearby bale. "Please, let me taste you." She jerked at the waist of his khakis, pulling the brown leather belt apart before moving to the buttons and zipper.

Tom gasped and let his head drop back between his shoulders as she slid her small, warm hand into his underwear, tugging his throbbing cock from the cloth. Within another moment, her tongue had flicked out and swiped the small bead of moisture from the tip. He moaned and carefully stroked her neatly pinned back hair, the tips of his fingers rubbing at her scalp. "Oh, God, yes!"

Hermione looked up at him from under her lashes, slowly rubbing the flat of her tongue against the tip of his cock before she sucked the head into her mouth. Drawing his length in slowly, she tightened her lips before reversing her movement and drew him back out, her cheeks hollowing with the pressure of her suction.

A strangled groan erupted from his throat as his fingers spasm, pressing her head down slightly, "Yesss, that's it. Take it all, darlin'." He grunts as her tongue swirls against that little spot underneath the head of his cock, his hips twisting and arching towards her.

She drew him back in again as far as she could manage, setting up a steady rhythm (suck in, draw out, suck, draw) as her fingers gently massaged his balls before wrapping around the base of his cock and stroking in time with her mouth.

Tom groaned louder, falling back on his elbows on top of the hay bale as Hermione's mouth and hand worked him over. It only took a few more moments of the combination of strokes and a glance back down at her to see her free hand working under her dress for him to come into her mouth with a shout, barely muffled behind gritted teeth.

His leg twitched and braced against the hay as his fingers tightened in her hair as she continued to suck on his pulsating cock, drawing every last drop of come from him before she drew away and looked up at him with a naughty little smirk before swallowing, her tongue flicking out to lick her lips.

"You taste amazing."

Her voice was soft and raspy, and he couldn't wait another moment. Sliding off the hay bale, he pushed her over onto her back and hovered over her, tugging the skirt of her dress up over her thighs and slipping his hand down the front of her visibly wet panties.

Tom groaned softly against her breast as he nuzzled at her soft damp skin, his fingers working between her folds gently. "You're so wet, darlin'. This is all from me."

Hermione gasped and writhed under his touch, his fingers stroking between her folds slowly, spreading and gathering moisture before moving up to slide along her clit. She shuddered and scrambled to grab his wrist, her hips arched into his touch. "Oh, yes, it is all for you!"

He growled softly against her chest, licking her salty skin as he flicked her clit with his thumb. Shifting up, he kissed her hard on the mouth; his tongue twisting around hers as first one then a second finger worked into her slick passage. Pulling his head back, he stared down at her flushed face as he continued to work her with his hand, his thumb stroking her clit with every thrust of his fingers.

Hermione moaned softly, high in her throat as she shuddered and arched back. "Oh, there, there, there…!" She cried out, her thighs spasming and slamming shut around his hand as he continued to stroke and thrust, drawing out her orgasm.

"That's it, princess, come for me!" He hissed against her cheek as he shifted closer, twisting his hand between her legs and rubbing her swollen pussy, slowing and gentling his touch as she trembled.

She gasped out and shuddered at his touch before letting out a breathy laugh as her entire body shuddered when he deliberately stroked the edge of his thumb hard down her clit. "Oh! Don't do that. It's too much!"

Tom chuckled darkly, his fingers stilling but not withdrawing from her panties, just cupping her cunt and holding her as he nibbled just behind her ear. She shivered and relaxed completely against him, turning her head to lie on his arm. He smirked and tenderly withdrew his hand from her panties and smoothed her skirts down before tucking himself back into his pants.

Hermione drew in a slow deep breath and filled her lungs completely before she opened her eyes and looked up at him, smiling dreamily. "Hi."

Tom grinned, looking down at her with a quirked brow. "Hello," he rumbled as he reached up and plucked a piece of hay from her hair.

She laughed softly and grinned back, "I'm so glad you came." She snorted then laughed again, covering her face with a hand. "I didn't mean it like that."

He laughed with his mouth pressed against her temple, the vibrations making her shiver before he sighed and kissed her hair softly. "I know. We should get back down there before everyone notices you missing." He smirked, carefully untangling from her and standing, all while tugging her hands and helping her to her feet as well.

She wrinkled her nose and sighed, though allowed him to pull her back to her feet. It took a few extra minutes, and both of them to get all of the hay out of their hair and clothing and to get everything straightened and back into place properly.

Tom smirked and reached out, dragging his thumb over her cheek and down the arch of her throat. "You're beautiful. Especially for a girl from Connecticut."

Hermione's mouth popped open, and she glared up at him indignantly, "Excuse me? At least I am wearing proper shoes!" She stuck her leg out, and he looked down at the dainty silver strapped heels clinging to her foot.

"Oh yes, I do like those proper shoes, darlin'." He looked up at her again with a dark grin; the gleam in his green eyes promising more.

She bit down on her lower lip and laughed, trying to suppress her grin before just leaning against his chest. "Come on, then, let's go back down. I promised this really annoying southern boy I met at least five or six dances."

Tom snorted and wrapped his arm around her shoulder, holding her for a moment before leading her back down the stairs to sneak back into the reception. "At least this really annoying southern man, who is no boy, by the way, chased you down and insisted on at least five or six dances. He sounds like a smart man."

Hermione could only laugh and allowed him to drag her out onto the dance floor for their first of at least five or six dances.

The rest of the reception passed in a bit of a blur. Hermione and Tom danced their five or six (or nine or ten) dances together, only breaking apart for her to dance once with Harry (Tom stood off to the side, watching her the entire time.) She didn't dance with Ron and after the first few snubs, he gave up and spent the rest of the night at Lavender's side.

After a few hours, a bit tipsy from the wine and heat, Hermione and Tom found themselves lying on a bunch of quilts in the bed of his truck, arms wound around one another and staring up at the clear night sky.

Occasionally, she would point out a constellation and she would talk about the mythology and he would talk about how the old farmers used them to know when to plant what crops. It was warm and comfortable, the smell of grass and sun-baked dirt and honeysuckle surrounding them.

A couple of hours later, when they had fallen asleep together, still in the back of the truck with one quilt pulled up over their legs, arms still wrapped around each other and nestled close together, they were unaware of Hermione's mother stopping by to peer at them and to snap a picture with her phone, smiling a little sadly at her all-grown-up daughter.

. . . . . . . . . .

The next few days were hazy.

Harry and Ginny left late the day after the wedding, after a huge brunch with all of the guests that were staying at the house or nearby farms.

Robert and Helen Granger made a point of sitting with Hermione and Tom, chatting with them and especially him, asking him questions about his life on his father's farm and his time at the Malfoy stables. Discovering that he was a bit older than Hermione made them pause for a long moment as they exchanged a look. Hermione merely scowled at her parents before leaning across Tom for another biscuit with fig preserves.

After Harry and Ginny had left (with many admonishments for Hermione to not be a stranger and to actually stay in touch), she and Tom went for a drive to the creek. After complaining about how hot it had become, and she still wasn't sure how it happened, they ended up in the water together almost completely naked and splashing each other like children.

The next few days followed similar patterns, with little structure to what they did and where they went. One day, they went into town and had milkshakes at an old-fashioned ice cream parlor downtown; the next, they walked down one of the large patches of pine trees on the Malfoy farm and had a picnic and Tom plucked honeysuckle and showed her how to drink the sweet nectar from the flowers.

They talked in between food and kisses and just being quiet around on another, about anything and everything. Her classes at Columbia, his father's farm and at some point how it would be his, her cat, the horses he worked with at Malfoy's.

One day they got caught in a sudden thunderstorm while they were out sitting beside the creek and they had to scramble to gather their things and get back to his truck, all the while laughing hysterically, until he grabbed her and held her face in his hands and kissed her breathless, all while the rain poured down on their heads and made her hair frizz and curl wildly.

She had thought it was absolutely ridiculous to fall in love with someone in only a week but now… maybe there was something to it.

On the ninth day of her stay, he took her for a walk through one of his family's pastures. Tom hadn't brought her to the house to meet his father yet, and she wasn't pushing; while he never gave her any details, Hermione could pick up that their relationship was strained, at best.

While walking through the calf-high grass, he suddenly smirked and tugged her close, kissing her mouth before trailing down her neck to suck at her collarbone. Hermione gasped softly and arched her head back before squirming, "Stop that! Someone will see us."

He laughed softly as his hands crept under her sundress to grab her ass, pulling her hard against his erection. "Doubt it, we're out in the middle of an unused field. It's in furrow until next plant, and no one will come out here for months. Come here." He bit her shoulder firmly, not enough to truly be painful but with enough teeth to make her pussy clench.

Tom tugged her down to him, pulling her to sit on his lap as his nimble fingers undid the buttons down her front, pushing the cloth aside and cupping her breasts, callused thumbs dragging across her nipples until they had turned into hard upturned peaks.

Hermione groaned softly and writhed on his lap, grinding herself steadily against his growing cock. "Tom, please…"

His head lowered, and his mouth latched onto one breast, tongue curling and lapping at her swollen nipple before he switched to the other. Her hands tugged and quickly worked his pants open, withdrawing his swollen cock to stroke it in time with his mouth's torturing of her breast.

Tom had gasped softly at the first touch of her sun-warmed hands on his cock before he pulled back. His hands worked quickly to bare her completely to his eyes; dress pulled off over her head and panties worked down her legs while he stripped off his shirt, and she tugged his pants down.

There, in a pasture on his family's farm, laying naked in the southern sun, Tom moved over Hermione and stroked her to a fever pitch with his mouth and fingers until she screamed. Only then did he move between her legs and slowly push himself into her with a groan.

Her hands flew up and clutched at his ass, her nails biting into his skin as she cried out, his girth stretching her in such a delicious way.

"All right?" He paused and looked down at her with a gasp, one hand curled around her hip to hold her still as the other braced him over her.

Hermione nodded quickly, shifting a little to wiggle her hips against his and grinning as he shuddered, his fingers biting harder into her skin. "Oh, yes… please, move!"

He growled down at her as he withdrew slowly before pushing back in at the same agonizing pace. She whined and arched up towards him, her hands pulling at his hips in a vain attempt to persuade him to move faster. "Please, Tom, please!"

"Please what, darlin'?" He smirked down at her, his hips rotating still slow and steady despite the way his thighs and stomach were tensing and trembling with the effort to hold back.

"Please fuck me, Tom!" Hermione threw her head back on the grass, gasping as he shifted position and withdrew again, still slow and torturing. "Please!"

"Since you begged so prettily…" Tom braced his arms, hands pressing into the dirt and grass on either side of her head and thrust hard into her, making her cry out sharply. "Is that what you wanted, pretty girl?"

Hermione cried out again as he withdrew and thrust again, hard and fast, "Yes! Please, yes! More!"

Soon there were no more words as Tom pushed and pulled, throwing himself into her as hard and fast as he could move. His hand twisted down between them to stroke her clit, throwing Hermione into one orgasm as he continued to fuck her under the blazing sun.

Sweat was running down his arms, their skin shiny with perspiration, he pounded into her body. When he tilted his hips so that his pelvis rubbed against her clit with each thrust, Hermione screamed out with her third orgasm, her hands scoring his back with her nails. He grunted deep in his chest as he stuttered to a stop for a moment before he thrust once, twice more before he came deep into her.

His forehead dropped down against hers as he panted for a long moment, his breath dancing across the hot skin of her face. Tom carefully withdrew from her and rolled to the side, lying back on the grass as his fingers tangled around hers.

"God. That was amazing. You are amazing." Hermione laughed softly and laid beside him, her eyes closed against the bright sunshine, just listening to him breath, the sound of the wind and the far off call of some bird.

"Yes, it was." His fingers squeeze hers, and then he turned over to kiss her softly, his free hand stroking her hair back from her face.

She smiled up at him after the kiss, her free hand reaching up to ruffle his sweaty hair with a soft laugh. "I'm dying of thirst; let's go get something."

Tom smirked down at her before standing up and as always, helping her up as well before handing over her dress after shaking off the grass and dirt as thoroughly as possible. "It's time for lunch anyway. Let's head back up to the house and get you fed."

The next day, he took her from behind up against a big green tractor in a not so far off field within sight of the Weasley's house.

. . . . . . . . . .

The rest of the Granger's second week passed far too quickly, and Hermione, in particular, was understandably upset the night before they were to fly back to Connecticut. Tom had come over to the house, and they were sitting on the porch swing, her legs thrown over his lap and his arm around her shoulders, holding her close to him. She had even stolen one of his flannel shirts (the one he wore that first night at the bonfire) on one chilly night and was wearing it over her dress.

"I'm going to miss this." She sighed against his shoulder as her fingers rubbed and played with one of his hands, laying loosely on her lap.

Tom tilted his head and brushed his lips against her forehead with a soft rumble, "Mm. You have my number; I have yours. We will be able to talk."

She smirked and looked up at him as best as she could without moving her head. "True, but that's not exactly the same as being able to reach over and touch you, you know?" She poked his side, giggling as he twitched.

"True, but it's also not like you live in Burma or something. We can visit one another. It's not that big of a deal." Tom shifted and, despite his very sensible words, held her a bit closer.

She sighed and snuggled her head under his chin. "Right. We can visit one another."

He pressed a kiss to her head and held her tight against his chest until she had fallen asleep, and he carried her up to her bed before going back to his place.

. . . . . . . . . .

The Grangers flew back to Connecticut the next day, right on time and for once with no problems at the airport. They settled back into their routines, the elder Grangers going back to their dental practice, and the younger spending the remainder of her summer studying and texting and FaceTiming with Tom Riddle.

Then it was time to move back to New York and prepare for the beginning of classes and her last year at Columbia. To celebrate their last year, she and the Patil twins (another mathematics and a biology/pre-med student) found a three-bedroom apartment that they were renting for the school year.

The first week of classes concluded with little fanfare and Hermione settled on one of the couches to relax. She hadn't heard from Tom since earlier in the day and was a little worried when she tried calling him and it went straight to voicemail. She sighed and tossed her phone onto the table and curled up in her (his) flannel shirt, taking a deep breath of the long faded scent of grass and honeysuckle and man.

Padma walked in with a Chinese menu, holding it out to Hermione while she was dialing. "Parvati is craving some egg drop, I hope you're cool with Chinese tonight."

Hermione laughed and shrugged, glancing at the menu. "I guess I have to be! Uhm, just chicken and broccoli with white rice tonight. Oh, and a spring roll. Pleeeease." She grinned up at Padma, who rolled her eyes with a laugh before walking into the kitchen to place the order.

They settled in the living room with a rerun of Scrubs on the tv while they worked and after only twenty minutes, the doorbell rang. Glancing at each other in surprise, Padma arched her brows as she stood up, "That was the fastest delivery ever. Parvati isn't even home yet!"

Hermione shrugged and looked back down at her book. "We can stick it in the oven 'til she gets home."

"Hah! I'm not waiting for her; I'm starving!" Padma walked over to the door and threw it open, money in hand before she froze. "Oh, uh. Hermione, it's for you."

"Huh?" She looked up from her homework before she stood up and walked over to the door; then her mouth dropped open in shock. "T-Tom?"

Standing in the hallway, grinning widely and holding a well-worn leather duffle, was Tom Riddle. "Yeah? I told you I'd be here."

Hermione had choked on a laugh before she threw herself at him, causing him to drop his bag to the floor as her arms wound around his neck and legs around his hips. "I'm so glad you came!"

He laughed into her neck as he held her tight against him, "Me too." He pulled his head back and smirked down at her, brilliant green eyes shining as though he were standing under the southern sky, and not the fluorescent bulbs in a city apartment building. "So, do you have some time to show this southern boy around the big city?"

Hermione grinned and pressed her forehead to his. "I'm definitely going to show this southern man around the big city, but first… Chinese?"

Tom smiled, brushing the edge of his nose against hers. "I'd love that." He leaned over to pick up his bag and walked into the apartment, all without putting her down, as a smiling Padma closed the door.