Full summary: Chocolate has many powers. It can heal, twist emotions, break prejudices, and perhaps, in the oddest case, bring two people together in the oddest place. Based on the movie and book Chocolat. Is (eventually) RL/HG.
Special thanks to sazzlette who wrote "Chocolate", which, though somewhat unrelated, inspired me to write this. You have no idea how much I wanted to write a Lupin/Hermione story but couldn't think of a suitable plot.
From the exterior, it rarely seemed like a magical sort of place. The rustic village was settled among the sloping hills of Snowdonia in Northern Wales, resting in a valley with tall green grass rushing up to meet the cobblestone streets and the homes' back doors. It was small, quaint, and quiet. There were no roads leading to the small town of Dihalog, nor any certain paths away; the merchants had other ways of receiving their goods, and the small lake kept the most avid fishers occupied.
From the side, maybe even from above, no one would expect that this town's heartbeat was timed by magic. But witches and wizards ran the steps of every street, while mischievous kneazles escaped from the cages of hippogriffs with smug smiles on their squashed faces, and little boys told adventures about Chinese Fireballs and wished whimsically for a racing broom they had only heard about in passing. The occasionally adventurous Muggle was the only thing that kept this town from the coveted title of being the second All-Wizarding Community in Great Britain. However, it was well known that the unsuspecting Muggles were run out after little more than a day, often upon observing that the homes – grey stone and ancient and often leaning every which-way all at once – could still be standing only by some sort of magic.
Witches wore skirts or dress robes, depending on the occasion, men wore their robes and cloaks, and the children wore clothes that were unrecognizable by the end of the day. Everyone looked somewhat alike, for there wasn't a drop of Muggle blood among them, as far back as anyone could trace. And they preferred it to stay that way, thank you very much.
It was no wonder why Hermione Granger felt somewhat out of place, stepping on to this street in this funny little town, nothing familiar to her except for the jeans and the pullover she was wearing, the cat carrier in her hand, and the heavy bag slung over her shoulder. She squinted into the midday sun, holding a hand to her brow to shade her eyes.
This would do.
For a Sunday afternoon, the streets were disconcertingly empty. In Hogsmeade, the Three Broomsticks would be full to overflowing, and back in her own hometown, where she lived with her parents, the shops closed at five. She had been expecting a bustling scene of domestic chaos: scraped knees, babies crying, the snap of Apparation and the tinkling of bells as doors at the shops closed and opened for busy customers. But all the doors were shut and locked, their empty windows gleaming dully in the sunlight. There were only a few children about, one levitating a foot or so above the lawn on a toy broom. A one-year-old sat nearby, staring lethargically with a toy wand stuck in his mouth, drool hanging in transparent strings from the polished wood. Their mother, wearing a skirt and blouse in pristine condition, sat on the doorstep watching them with wary eyes that shifted toward Hermione. Curious, Hermione gave her an uneasy smile. When the witch did not return it, she just walked uncomfortably on.
Did the suspicious woman think that Hermione was a Muggle? She supposed that it was possible, but if she were a Muggle, wouldn't she have acted a little more shocked about the child floating on a broom and the wand sticking haphazardly out of the younger one's lips? Maybe that's why she hadn't been yelled at and attacked as soon as she entered the town from the Apparation point. Maybe they just planned to Obliviate her later. She hadn't walked into this blind. She was Hermione Granger. She had done her research. Which was why she was not going to tell one person in this town that she was Muggleborn.
There was no denying that it was a nice, tidy town, the kind of place she supposed everyone would want to raise their children. It was spotless, timeless, and apparently, the citizens were like-minded and tight-knit. Her research hadn't told her that all shops would be closed on Sundays. That would be a rule she'd have to prepare herself for, or else break entirely. She lifted her head a bit so she looked somewhere other than the rough ground beneath her feet. She could be confident about this. She was young, intelligent, and brave. If she could help her friends confront Lord Voldemort and live, she could survive opening a business in this little town.
She passed a house elf, dressed in what looked like a potato sack and folding its head against its chest as it brushed the dust off of the stoop, and asked it, "Excuse me, could you point me to number nine Bernard Street?"
A startled squeak was the only thing she got in reply as the elf's eyes fell upon her Muggle clothing. There was a crack and the elf was gone, leaving a cloud of dust behind as if it had just vanished in some great Muggle magic trick.
"Thanks," Hermione muttered under her breath. "Suppose I'll have to find it myself…"
It wasn't difficult. A large sign announced Bernard Street's branch off of the main road, curling slightly through shops and houses, neat, tidy, and, like the high street, unpleasantly empty. Her new shop was rather close to the high street, as she had been promised, and except for its dusty window display and missing sign (she would have had to take it down, anyway, though the rusty hanging post wasn't exactly welcoming), it was quite cheery and pleasant. The rent wasn't extremely affordable, and she'd have to do without a few luxuries until she'd gotten back on her feet, but she had the confidence that her sales could make up for it.
Hermione specialized in chocolate. At the age of twenty-two, she had been laid off by the Ministry in her work supporting non-human rights ("If they needed rights," her boss had said in exasperation. "They would learn how to speak for themselves."), and had begun an independent research project on the properties of magical healing in everyday foods. Unfunded, of course.
Chocolate was by far the most promising.
Among being a rather pleasant aphrodisiac and a calming treat after a frightening Magical Attack (she had Remus Lupin to thank for the inspiration), it also proved to be quite good for anything that bothered you, and an appealing item for all – magical or Muggle. With certain things tweaked, certain things changed, it could cure colds, measles, impotence, and severe cases of the jitters. The possibilities were limitless, and it was this excitement to experiment with the unknown that brought Hermione to the point of pushing it under the noses of others. It wasn't all for her knowledge, of course, not just for her learning.
It was this excitement and this ambition that drew her to Dihalog, when, in her right mind, she probably would have never set foot inside the place. It seemed like the kind of town that would breed Malfoys by the dozens, raising narrow-minded children in stiff, stubborn tradition.
She smiled to herself as she brought out the key that had been owled to her. She was certain that they would like her. They had to. No one ever disliked the woman who made them chocolate.
She had come to this town with a mission, not just for experimentation but to inspire change, and she'd be damned if her efforts proved unfruitful.