Dark Mark Winery

Prompt: Tom and Hermione are somehow forced into a fake relationship and eventually fall in love.

Summary: Hermione agrees to pretend to be Tom Riddle's fake girlfriend at his friend's party in order to avoid the slime-ball that is Cormac. And then shit hits the fan.

Rating: M

Warnings: drinking, strong language, murder

Ever since Hermione had returned from her two year environmental engineering expedition in Africa with Neville, Pansy Parkinson had been trying to get her laid.

"Think of it as an act of civil service," Pansy had insisted. "We all think it would improve your attitude and make you more social." Apparently, Pansy was now speaking on the behalf of her whole friend group. Hermione meekly nodded her head and agreed to the blind date, but internally was ripping Pansy shred for shred. How the fuck had Pansy taken control of her friend group in the mere two years she was gone?

The answer, of course, was Ronald. She and Ron had broken up right before her trip to Africa. Through emails and Skype calls, Hermione learned from Harry that Ron had taken up with the haughty bobbed princess of the Slytherin dorms. And it was evident that while they were not married, Pansy and Ron were not breaking up any time soon.

It wasn't like she had expected Ronald to be waiting for her upon her return. She fully knew when they broke up that it was the end of that aspect of their relationship. But she thought Ron would at least have better taste than Pansy fucking Parkinson. She was demanding, assertive, snotty - and a little too much like herself for Hermione's liking.

"It's terribly awkward when we all go out and you're the seventh wheel. You understand that, don't you?" Pansy rhetorically asked. Hermione bit the inside of her cheek until it bleed to prevent herself from lashing out at the woman.

All of her life, Hermione had struggled to make friends, and now that she had made a solid few from University, she was desperate to keep them (or make sure they kept her). So, begrudgingly, Hermione accepted Pansy's blind date arrangements. And there was a certain level of awkwardness at their gatherings (Neville had decided to travel to South America for a few months to find more exotic plants), and everyone was in their own little pairing. Ron had Pansy, Ginny had Oliver Wood, Harry had Luna, and Hermione had - well, no one. Personally, Hermione considered her job as a full-time relationship, but no one else, not even Harry, shared that opinion. If only Neville were here, he would understand.

Of her blind date, Pansy had said, "He's married to his job, travels a lot, and is supposedly very attractive."

"Wait," Hermione asked, a little baffled, "you've never even met him?"

"He's a friend of a friend of a friend. Slytherin house ties, you wouldn't understand." Hermione couldn't help but roll her eyes at that. "And don't worry, he's apparently very charming."

The day of the blind-date, right around 3 PM, she received a not so charming fax message from a secretary in Munich that this stranger (his name was blocked out in thick black ink) would not be able to make it to dinner. Even more irritating was that the letter had no business address or contact information (even the fax number had been registered as 'private'), so she couldn't web-stalk his sorry ass.

She texted Ginny and Harry about it, unsure of where to go from here.

Hermione G: So Pansy's friend of a friend of a friend has already called off tonight. . .via fax machine!

Ginny W: Fuck him!

Harry P: ^ what she said

Ginny W: I say u go out 4 drinks anyway!

Harry P: You're always welcome to join us tonight - we're trying that new place downtown.

Hermione: I really don't want to intrude again.

Pansy's made it quite clear that I am an awkward bore at your group dates.

Harry P: You're not a bore and you're not awkward. She's just thinks you still are interested in Ron.

Which you aren't

. . . right?

Hermione: No, of course not! She can have him!

Ginny W: Good. Then u can hang w/ us 8 The Heir!

Harry P: C'mon Mione, it'll be fun!


Hermione: I might be able to stop by for a while.

Ginny W: YAYYY!

C u there!

Unfortunately, Hermione was the only timely person in her friend group. She arrived a little before 8 but didn't even hear from until until well after 8:15. Luna had dragged Harry to street musician's performance outside their subway stop, and he wasn't sure how long it would take. Ginny was still cleaning up after practice, and Pansy and Ron were simply "running errands". Hermione had a sinking feeling she knew what that meant and shriveled her nose in disgust.

So, while she waited, Hermione ordered a water and started drawing an eco-friendly water filter for the bar on the one available paper napkin around her. To make matters even worse, her pen had started to leak, so Hermione dabbed the ink on her hands rather than ruin the filter drawing.

"Hey . . . Hermione," a voice purred behind her, and without even needing to look back, she knew it was Cormac McLaggen, and she suddenly began to regret even wearing a dress tonight. Cormac, still a frat boy at heart, had a unique talent for being able to sexualize anything. Were you wearing old trainers and yoga pants? How about a long, conservative dress for a funeral? Maybe even a ratty sweatshirt two sizes too big? Cormac could find it all appealing, and say just the right thing to make you crawl within your skin.

"How's my favorite engineering assistant been?" Hermione ignored him and the insult. She was a full-blown engineer with a masters for fuck's sake! "Heard you were in Africa - did you get jungle fever and crave me, baby?" He dragged his overly-lotioned finger across her exposed shoulders, making her shoulder and whirl around.

"Get your hands off me!"

"Whoa, babe, chill out." He took a seat at the stool next to her and scooched closer. Hermione tensed at that phrase - her whole life she had been told that, as if she wasn't acceptable as her normal, anxious self, and it rubbed her raw.

"No, I will not chill out - because I am not your babe - and you're talking like fucking Christian Grey from those horrible smut novels!" Her voice had escalated to a new screeching level and people had begun to stare.

"I love it when you're all fiery like this," he winked, obviously not taking her clear 'fuck off' vibes. Hermione decided to take a different tactic.

"You know what I'd love even more?" His eyes widened at this - she hadn't given him this much positive attention since freshman orientation years ago. "I'd love it if you go freshen up in the bathroom and then get me a drink - you've got a little something right," Hermione reached up the touch his nose with her ink stained hands, "there."

"Sure thing," he grinned, trailing his hands over the back of her chair before sauntering towards the washroom.

Just then, she heard a door open from what sounded like below her. She peeked over the bar to find that a trap door had been lifted and a tall man in white oxford with suspenders was emerging from them. Once at his full height, he began to rummage through the bar for a particular bottle. The barman at the other end ignored him altogether, which made it all the more peculiar.

"What are you doing?" Hermione blurted out.

"What are you doing?" The man repeated at her, nodding his head at her immaculate drawing and not so immaculate hands.

"Oh, um. I was drawing a clean water filter for this place." He tilted his head to the side and a hint of a smile appeared on his face.

"Not just an engineer's assistant then?" He lifted up a bottle in victory.

Hermione blushed at this. "Oh god, you heard all of that?" The man nodded.

"Little hard not to, you've got a very shrill voice when you're upset." Hermione blushed even more. "What's your name?"

"I'm Hermione." He reached out his hand and she shook it. She noticed that he didn't seem to care about the smudged ink on her hands. She also noted the large family ring on his right hand.

"Tom." At the end of the pub, the bathroom door opened and Cormac began slowly prowling his way towards them.

"Listen, it seems you don't have much time, so I'm going to keep this short. I need a fake girlfriend for an event, and you want to get away from a creep. Will you come with me?" But before Hermione could respond, Cormac had reached the bar.

Sidling up to Tom, Cormac slammed his hand down, declaring, "Two Manhattans." At the other end of the pub, her friends had begun to walk in, with Pansy leading the way.

"Sorry, I don't work here." He put down the bottle momentarily and turned to her. "Hermione?" he asked while extended his hand over the bar. Hermione turned to find Ron snacking on Pansy's neck and instinctively felt that she would not be missed. She grabbed his hand and he helped her get onto the bar and over - with brief and polite touching.

"Crabbe, get the door, will you?" Tom asked the barman, who responded with a grunt.

"Hermione!" Cormac whined. "What about our date?"

"Sorry," she smiled, "I've already got one."

As he was helping her down into the darkly lit tunnel below, Ginny and Oliver walked in, and Ginny began to call out to her, but this fell on deaf ears.

"What were you doing upstairs?" Hermione asked while he guided them through the tunnels.

"Grabbing a bottle of champagne for the party."

"Wait," Hermione stopped in her tracks, "isn't that stealing?"

"Not if I own the bar and the product," he explained with a smirk and a wink. Hermione was glad it was dark, because now she felt embarrassed about having accused him of stealing.

"Where are we going?"

"To a private ballroom across the street. I bought out this particularly tunnel system to bring my products in and out of London without having to worry about looters or flavour copycats. We're going to a divorce party, by the way. Yes, it's stupid, but Walburga Black wants to make it known she's on the market."

"Walburga Black, the millionaire heiress?"

"Walburga Black, the billionaire heiress, or at least she will be after tomorrow's divorce signing with her husband."

"Right. . . so, you're bringing me because?" Hermione asked, still a little confused.

"Walburga Black is what you might call a 'cougar'-"

"She's in her seventies!"

"Yes, I know, but that's not stopping her. Anyway, she's being trying to woo me, especially since her niece Bellatrix works for me. So I lied and said I had a girlfriend to get her off my back a little earlier this evening."

"And how did we 'fake meet'?"

"Didn't have to create that part of the story - she got distracted by the waiter serving the jello."

"Ah," Hermione mused, suppressing a chuckle.

"What do you do for a living?" He asked suddenly.

"I'm an environmental engineer with Flitwick and Sprout. And you?"

"I'm an entrepreneur - I own a series of wineries, bars, breweries, and the like all over the world. My brand is called, 'Dark Mark'. Hobbies?"

"Oh, I read. Get lost in Wikipedia articles. Do a little writing when I'm not at working with the women's shelter. You?"

"I read and write as well. I dabble in some photography and architecture. Hiking, sailing, scuba diving. Occasionally cook and taste test."

"We really should come up with a cover story," she noted.

"Royal Botancial Gardens?"

"That could work . . . and we just have kept it quiet because we're both constantly working and it's long-distance."

"Brilliant!" They had finally reached the stairs connected to the door to the hotel ballroom. "Thank you for doing this, by the way."

"Not a problem. Anything is better than getting stuck with Cormac." She shuddered and Tom shriveled his face.

"He sounds a bug repellent." Offering out his arm, she took it and together they walked up the steps. But before he rapped on the door, he suddenly warned in a hushed voice, "You can do anything you want tonight - just don't drink the champagne." Hermione felt herself tense at this, her skin tingling with some unknown but certain dread.

"Why?" Yet her question hung in the air unanswered as he rapped on the door, and she couldn't help but begin to question her decision to follow this man.

When they entered the scene, the divorce party was in full swing. People of all ages were gossiping, taking selfies, dancing, and drinking in abundance. At what felt like lightning pace, she was whirling around the room with Tom as her anchor and her pivot, meeting everyone he knew or who desperately wanted his attention.

"People try to win my heart because I make exclusive and customized products for my favorites," he explained.

She met everyone from media mogul Kai Avery to film actress Lyra Nott to military colonel Barty Crouch to Tom's personal assistant Bellatrix Lestrange. Bellatrix was an older woman, perhaps in her early forties, who was both beautiful and stern, cold and venomous. After quickly pulling Hermione away from a ticked off Bellatrix, Tom answered the question she couldn't bring herself to ask.

"No, I am not dating Bellatrix. Yes, she is a bit old and a bit too famous to be working for me. But, she has a particular . . .skill set that is essential for her my business, and it gives her the ability to not go stir crazy like her aunt."

Just when Hermione thought they had a moment to breathe, there was a loud cry behind them. "Thomas!" An old man cried, stumbling forward. "How good to see you my boy," he drunkenly crooned.

"Professor," Tom smiled politely. "Hermione, this is Professor Horace Slughorn. He was my advisor at Oxford and now one of my dearest friends. Professor, this is my girlfriend, Hermione."

"Ho ho! A girlfriend! I'm so happy for you Thomas! It's soimport'nt to have love in 'ur life," the elderly teacher began to slur.

"I have to speak to a colleague, I'll be back in a moment," he murmured to her, removing his hand from the curve of her back and handing her the bottle of champagne. The lack of his touch disturbed her, but she was far more concerned with why she would even miss it in the first place.

"How did you'ndTom meet?" Professor Slughorn asked.

"The Royal Botanical Gardens." A waiter emerges out of thin air and offers her a glass of white wine. "No thank you." With Tom's warning of the champagne fresh in her mind, she's hesitant to drink anything.

"Good good. That reminds me of my wife . . ." He trails off. She expects him to continue into a weepy monologue, but the alcohol coursing through his system seems to have shut him up.

"How long have you been at Oxford?" Hermione asked to change the subject.

"Long long long long long long long time," he stutters happily, hiccuping after. Suddenly, Tom is at her elbow again.

"Hermione, there's someone who wants to meet you. Professor," he acknowledged the older man with a curt nod. With great ease he navigates them both through the crowd to a table where an older woman is reclining in her chair in a risque leopard and snake leather suit that even Pansy couldn't pull off.

"Tommykins, darling, is this she?" The woman exclaimed dramatically, and Hermione was immediately reminded of Rosalind Russell in the film Auntie Mame. "Is the woman who has stolen you from me?"

"I'm Hermione." She extended out her hand, but Walburga did nothing but stretch and flex her fingers, clicking her ridiculously long nails together and rattling her diamond bracelets. But then her eyes fluttered to the bottle in Hermione's grasp.

"Oh, Thomas, you shouldn't have," Walburga cooed before reaching out and seizing the bottle. "Look, it's even named for me!" She beamed, artificially whitening dentures glowing in the chandelier light. It was true - in an embroidery stylized font was her name emblazoned in black and gold against a mossy, tapestry-like background.

"Let's get a photo!" A minor member of the paparazzi shouted, and Hermione was immediately being shoved in between Tom and Walburga, with her and Tom's hands clutching the top of the bottle and his other hand draped across her back and to Walburga's chair. "Everybody say 'divorce'!"

After what felt like forever with the bright lights flashing in their faces, Walburga turned back to Tom and Hermione. "Not pretty child thing," Walburga directed at Hermione while waving her hand, "keep your claws snagged on this one," she gestured towards Tom. "He has the best arse and I can only imagine the front matches the back." She proceeded to pinch his ass and cackle. Tom attempted to form a polite smile, but it ended up creating a flat line. Hermione instinctively grabbed Tom's wrist and pulled him away from Walburga.

"Don't worry, he's in safe hands, considering I don't treat him like an overly sexualized object and value him instead for his personality and intellect," she seethed in disgust.

"Yes, yes, and he didn't find you in some hellish nunnery," Walburga sneered with an air of disinterest. "Now leave. You're boring me with your morals and I'd much rather have some sinners around." Tossing her head back, she screeched, "Regulus! Fetch me one of your coworkers! I want to play."

"Enjoy the wine," Tom said gently, and Walburga smiled briefly before squealing at the sight of a man walking towards her with a collar around his neck. Without a word, Tom tucked his arms into Hermione's and they were leaving, this time through the front door. The awkward silence continued until they were out of the lobby and on the steps outside.

"That horrible, nasty, perverted, crazy-"

"You forgot insanely rich and famous-" he teased, but Hermione barrelled on in her rant.

"-power hungry, ignorant bitch!"

"Calling her a female dog would be a compliment," he chuckled darkly.

"I can't believe she assaulted you in there!"

"I told you she was a cougar."

"Yes, but that doesn't give her a reason to sexualize you for your body and then attack you!"

"Perhaps we should have her meet your suitor - what was his name, Cormac?" Hermione huffed at this.

"Yeah, they'd be perfect for each other."

"Well, on that note . . . thank you once again for doing this."

"Oh I had a lovely time, with the exception of the psycho granny back there."

"I might need another date next week, for a charity gala at a museum. Interested?"

"Only if she isn't there," she said, jutting her thumb towards the hotel where Walburga reigned.

"Oh, I highly doubt she will be."

"Yeah, goes against her lack of a soul." Tom's eyes crinkled at this and he smirked down at her. "What?" she asked, confused.

"You amuse me, Hermione." She raised an eyebrow at this but grinned none the less.

"Okay, so . . . when should we meet?"

"Oh, my people will be in contact with you, not to worry. Do you need a ride to your home?"

"No, I'm going to take the underground, but thank you."

"Well, my limo is always at your service if you need it." She nodded gratefully.

"Have a good night Tom," she said before shouldering her handbag and beginning to walk away.

"You as well, Miss Granger." She caught him waving to her when she turned around, but couldn't bring herself to smile. Crossing her arms, she strode to the station in short, fearful bursts.

She certainly had never given him her surname, so had did he know it?

The next morning at work, there was a large bouquet of roses at her desk. Timidly, she flipped the attached card over and was almost relieved when she saw that it was from Cormac.

To my fierce rose,

Here's a bundle of beauty for the woman I love. Netflix and chill at my place tonight? ) I'll have the boozes if you bring the wrappers.


Her day seemed to fly by as Hermione dove into her work with a unique passion that only came out when she was upset and needed to divert her attention. She didn't stop until around 2:30, when her boss Flitwick insisted she take a break.

Reluctantly, she ate the leftover takeout food from a few nights ago and researched the teacher she had met last night. It turned out that he was a highly honored professor of the sciences, specializing in chemistry and earth sciences. An article on his attendance of the divorce party the night before led her to BBC's website. The breaking news titled flickered, "Hotel Heiress and Billionaire passes away". Apparently, the cantankerous bitch died only after the divorce signing. Hermione googled the death, but not much was known at the moment, other than it happened around noon. But her internet scrolling was put on halt when Ginny stormed into her office last night.

"Hermione, we need to talk," she declared, standing over her friend with crossed arms.

"Is this about last night? Sorry I bailed, I just-"

"Do you have any fucking idea who you were with last night?"

"Well, I met a man at the bar who's an entrepreneur-"

"He's Tom fucking Riddle. A.K.A the world's most successful winemaker and future controller of the entire alcohol market. A.K.A an exclusive chemical and poison creator in the black market. A.K.A the man who tried to have me killed after I rejected him on ."

It took Hermione a moment to realize the reference - it had been one of the numerous events she had missed while away. The gist of it was that Ginny had gone on a celebrity dating website after dating Harry but before dating Oliver and thought she had met the perfect man. But thousands of flirtatious messages and a few dates, she broke things off. "Didn't feel right," Ginny explained. And then things had gone from weird to deadly. But the chemistry part - that clicked in with his comments last night and his connection to Slughorn. And Hermione had a sinking feeling about why he was truly at the party last night.

"Wait, you're saying that Tom was the stalker from online?"

"Yes!" She clutched Hermione's shoulders for dear life. "He may look handsome and seem charming, but he's the worst human being on this planet. He makes the Joker from the Batman movies look like a Disney prince." Hermione swallowed at this. "Stop any and all contact with him before it's too late. Because once he has his sights set on you-" but she stopped when there was a light knock on the office door. Both women looked up and gasped at the sight of Tom Riddle leaning against the doorframe in a grey three piece suit.

"Is now a bad time?" He smiled. Hermione squeezed Ginny's hands on her shoulder, but the redhead charged over towards the businessman.

"Stay the fuck away from my best friend you lousy piece of shit!" She shoved at his chest yet the push had no effect on his position.

"I'm sorry, who are you?" He asked with a tilt of his head.

"You know you I am, you tried to have me killed!" She jabbed a finger at his chest, but he brushed it away with a flick of his hand.

"Unless I killed you with my exorbitant prices, I don't think that's possible," he smiled, but the light never reached his eyes. "Hermione, is it alright if we talk right now?" Hermione gulped.

"No way in hell she's spending another minute alone with you!"

"While I admire your desire to protect your friend from the dangers I am no, I think you should make your own decisions Hermione. I will go away - that is, if you want me to." Ginny gave her the "i'm screaming 'no' with my eyes look", but Hermione ignored her best friend.

"I'll be fine Ginny. It's okay."

The redhead scowled at Tom before grunting, "Fine, but call me the minute you're out of his clutches!" before storming out of the office like the hurricane she was.

"I'm afraid I've upset your friend." He said after the door slammed shut, moving a little further into her office.

"Yes, you have," she murmured before leaning against her desk. He stared at her blankly for a few moments, analyzing her with great care. "So, what do you want to talk about?"

He shrugged nonchalantly. "I thought you could lead the discussion, considering you just goggled both Professor Slughorn and Walburga's death."

"What the-? How the fu-?" She stammered, not able to finish her thoughts.

He raised his phone out of his pocket. "Internet history. It's amazing how much you can learn about someone with a few strokes on a keyboard. Their interests, their concerns, their thought process - all because I can access some search engines."

Hermione's hands curled into fists at her sides. How much of this man's story had been a lie? A lure to make him more appealing to her interests?

"You put poison in your products."

"Not all of them, but yes, some are poisoned. My followers, they call themselves Death Eaters since they're playing with fate every time they take a sip from a Dark Marked product. It's an exclusive game of drinkable Russian Roulette for the world's elite. But for my followers, it's more than a game, it's an experiment. Many of them have a unique immunity to certain poisons. A trait that you carry in your DNA as well Hermione."

She cocked her head at this, having no idea what Tom was talking about. "Last year, you were attacked with a poisoned knife and should have died. Yet within 24 hours, you had nothing but a deep scar and a story to hide from your concerned friends back home."

"How long have you been watching me?"

He smiled darkly at this, "Your freshman year at Cambridge - I watched you in a MUN simulation on genetic cloning, and I couldn't look away. I've kept tabs on you since then, but it was because of your mishap in Africa that I really began to investigate you again. It's not everyday that I find someone who can survive one of Bellatrix's knives, you know."

She shook her head in utter shock before numbly saying, "You murdered Walburga Black."

"We, Hermione. We murdered Walburga Black. Or at least, that's what I'll tell everyone if you try to report me. And I have the evidence to prove it." With a few swipes on his phone, he had one of the paparazzi photos from the previous night. The photo would be pretty convincing - both of them were handing Walburga the bottle with big smiles on their faces. "Not to mention everyone heard your fight. It wouldn't be a far off assumption that you wanted revenge or had a vendetta against her."

"Why are you blackmailing me?"

"Good question, to which there are two very good answers." He slowly prowled towards her as he began to walk. "The first being that the public eye needs to think I'm a normal businessman who's not a diagnosed psychopath at the head of a black market operation. If I have a 'girlfriend', problem solved. People will assume I'm attending or not attending events because of you. 'Oh, Tom can't make it? His girlfriend must be sick' I'll look more, well, human, if you will."

"You want a fake girlfriend to parade around? Hire a callgirl," she said with as much venom as she could.

"But then I wouldn't be able to force you into the second answer, which is joining the Death Eaters. Plus, a consistent face makes me seem stable and trustworthy."

She bawked at this. "You want me to knowingly and willingly consume poison to see if I'll live?"

"Comes with the territory," he shrugged. "Everyone has their own way of getting their jollies - Barty Crouch likes radiation, Bellatrix likes fire, Kai likes the sensation of drowning - but all of them are united by the common thrill of surviving Dark Mark poison."

"Your idea of a fun time is fucked up," she scoffed.

"I still like everything I told you last night. I just cook and taste test poison." Hermione couldn't fathom how he was being so calm about the whole topic.

"What if I say no?" Suddenly he was up in her face, giving her the signature Kubrick stare with him looking down at her from the tops of his eyes.

"Then I will personally take it upon myself to slowly torture your friends one by one in front of you until say yes." He smiled wickedly at her, brushing a stray wisp of hair away from her face. "It's so fortunate that your ex is dating someone who so desperately wants to join my posse. Oh, also, surprise! I was the blind date who ditched you over fax!" He cheered with fake enthusiasm. "Yes, it was all a lure to get you to go to the bar. But anyway, Pansy gives me so much information that isn't online. Did you know Ronald is afraid of spiders? And Harry hates being electrocuted." She snarled and attempted to shove him away, but he grabbed a hold of her hands. "Ooh, Hermione, be careful. A cameraman may be watching, and we wouldn't want to give them a bad impression."

"Burn in hell!"

"Oh, sweetheart . . . I rule it," he answered heavily.

"Your little plan won't work, Tom. I don't have time to go traipsing all over the world with you to drink your little concoctions. I, unlike you, have a legitimate job that actually helps people."

"On the contrary - I've just bought up a large share in this corporation, and Pomona is letting me borrow you whenever I want so you can make sure I'm the first eco-friendly winery owner. So now you technically work and help me. The media will eat up an office romance story," he said smugly.

"You can't just buy me like a toy in a shop to drag about where you please!"

"See, this is the fun part about being a psychopath - I don't feel emotions, so I don't have to give a shit!" She slapped him hard across the face, but all he could do was laugh. "Oh, you're going to be so much fun! See you next Friday," He bopped her on the nose with a big grin before strolling away. At the door, he turned around to add , "Oh, and wear the dress your mother bought you from the online vintage boutique. It's a 1920's themed event, and with the diet you've been on, you'll look ravishing." He licked his lips and sauntered at the door, leaving Hermione a disheveled mess in her office.

She never thought she'd ever think this, but dear god she wished she had let Cormac buy her a drink instead letting curiosity get the better of her and leading her down the sick, twisted rabbit hole that was Tom Riddle.