He’s number seven.
In Hermione’s whirling around mind, he’s a number seven in the middle of an eight-hour shift with nine tables to herself. Everything in her day adding up to a waitress in the weeds after waitress number two smoked so much weed that she’s stuck waiting out a panic attack in the walk-in freezer. This only counting as the fifth time in one month that the spacey new hire has left Hermione high and dry, but the frowning number seven at table ten doesn’t care about the sum of anything other than his water requires a refill plus a slice of lemon.
His standard nineteen percent tip he intended to leave going down by the minute, and Hermione’s curls joined in on the action.
As the semi-distracted- and fully frazzled- waitress leaned over to pour number seven’s water, a single spiral of brown hair dropped loose over her eyes. “How’s the salad?” Hermione breathlessly asked, not even her voice slacking off by staying too long in one place.
The kitchen bell rung.
Hermione fought the urge to glance over her shoulder.
“I wouldn’t know,” her businessman customer crisply replied, coal black eyes pointedly following the flow of water in his glass to the lack of lemon on the side plate. “It’s currently wilting under a heat lamp.”
“Oh bugger, sorry.” Hermione snapped back into giving him her full attention, her eyes widening after briefly confirming that he wasn’t eating a salad yet, and after setting her pitcher on his table, she scurried off to retrieve his order. “Be right back,” she called out.
In fifteen seconds flat, Hermione returned with the salad, a lemon and a crooked smile tossed in for free. “Okay then, do you need any fresh cracked pepper? Crackers? A cracked plate or anything else cracked?” she joked, going for some good old-fashioned embarrassed rambling charm, and her customer cleared his throat after pointedly not laughing.
“Okay, then I hope you enjoy your first bite, and I’ll be back in a bit to check on you!”
A set of quickening bells dings swung Hermione’s head away from the task at hand. The ends of her ponytail whipping her cheek, and like a blue ribbon horse at the end of the track, she got the cue that it was time to pick up the pace. She turned to race her mary janes back to the expo counter before traveling onward to table one and five.
And did table four ever get their second Diet Coke, she asked herself. Her lip curling up at the corner.
Just to be sure, Hermione made a plan to pick up another glass along with a beverage napkin to discreetly mop at her brow. The sweat glistening there probably not going to win her any extra tips. However, before Hermione could finish her to-do list, she heard a more exasperated throat clearing behind her.
“That wasn’t a question,” the businessman interjected, hastening his speech before she interrupted him again “But fine, Hermione ,why are there pomegranates in my salad?”
“Wait,” her brow furrowed, “I thought you said it wasn’t a question.”
His lips thinned in warning, and Hermione flinched. The difference in their ages only eight years at most, but she felt horrifically young and silly and out of her element when this ridiculously striking man looked up at her but simultaneously down on her. The nostrils of his perfectly straight nose flaring.
“Ah,” she awkwardly laughed, her hold on her pen tightening, “the name part wasn’t the question, gotcha. You don’t care about my name. You were probably asking about why there are pomegranates in your salad, yeah? And the answer to that valid question is that I thought it might brighten up your lunch.”
“What did I order?” he curtly replied.
“A number seven: a spinach salad with grilled chicken.”
“With no pomegranates.” He flicked his gaze towards his salad. “And yet here they are. Tell me, were you planning to charge me extra for the pomegranates?”
“No.” Hermione stammered, her eyebrows lifting to comical heights. “Oh no, I just reckoned that you might enjoy more color on the plate since it’s a Monday and everybody hates Mondays- and why would I charge you more when the seeds cost a fourth of a penny each?”
“A fourth of a penny?”
“Sure, in a pomegranate there are six hundred and thirteen seeds, and that whole fruit cost a buck twenty at wholesale. At max, I could reasonably charge you two cents for that salad sprinkling. But that seems like more trouble than it’s worth to ring up when I’m slammed, right? So, I asked the kitchen to throw some in for free, but I can take them out if you’re allergic? Oh my god, are you allergic?”
At the end of Hermione’s blisteringly fast spiel, the businessmen blinked twice. In a state of shocked silence before coming back to his senses and slowly leaning back into his booth after noting four tables all intensely eyeing the mousy waitress who tried to cure a case of the Mondays with sprinklings of fruit. The mood turning on her the longer that he kept her preoccupied. That damn kitchen bell ringing again, and so he waved her away with a lift of two fingers.
“No, it’s fine.”
In Tom Riddle’s rigid worldview, it wasn’t anywhere near fine to slip fancy red fruit into a simple, caloric efficient midday salad. At best, he’d annoyingly like the new juicy addition to his life and would always want something off menu going forward. If it was up to this Hermione girl, he'd end up being the guy who orders something off menu before noon. The vulgar future version of himself almost making him lose his appetite, and that imagined scenario still paled in comparison to him accidentally staining his crisp white dress shirt thanks to an errant fork stab. For how could the important, dignified men that he planned to threaten after his meal be expected to take him seriously if he couldn’t even manage to finish lunch without soiling himself with ruby droplets?
No, it would not do to get used to a number seven gone wrong. Tom knew what he liked in life, what he expected. But when the pretty waitress next glanced over towards him, he did pop one pomegranate seed into his mouth, watched her breath catch in her throat from across the room when he sucked the tip of his thumb.
The step out of his routine perhaps worth catching her stumbling in her own.