Hey people! I know it's been a while, but I have this out and more on the way. Happy reading!
The trip to the Junkyard wasn't a very long one, but it was pretty intense. Mungojerrie was leaping over rooftops and clambering through narrow spaces, and all with Hermione attempting somewhat successfully to copy his movements while desperately gripping her trunk in one hand. Eventually, they were standing in front of a large pile of garbage and scraps.
"… This is it?" Hermione cringed a little. She had expected the Junkyard to be something, well, other than an actual junkyard.
To her surprise, Mungojerrie laughed as he pulled off his newsboy cap, revealing two orange cat ears. "Underwhelmin', ain't it? Trust me, it gets better. Jus' follow me, and try not to touch anythin' until we get there." He looked at her, and raised his eyebrows. "Understand?"
Hermione nodded, and began to follow Mungojerrie as he weaved his way through the stacks and piles of discarded objects. After a while, Hermione began to notice something very strange.
"I know it sounds really silly, and it might be just me," she began, "but is everything getting bigger?" As she said this, her ears twitched, catching up a rumbling sound, and she looked up to see a soccer ball the size of her torso rolling down from the top a garbage pile. She gave a small yelp and jumped aside just as it rolled by her.
Mungojerrie laughed again, kicking the ball aside. It rolled lazily away. "It's not just you, miss. I learned not to question it. C'mon." He continued through the junk, with Hermione following close behind.
A few minutes, and several abnormally large falling objects later, the two reached a sort of wall of debris. Mungojerrie cocked his head in a beckoning manner and began to move sideways, Hermione copying his actions. When they reached an opening, he crawled through. Hermione moved to follow, but hesitated. After some seconds, his tail reappeared in the opening, twitching.
"Alright, alright." She crawled through the opening, where Mungojerrie was waiting for her. They had landed on a decent sized ledge made out of enormous crushed cans and metal scraps. She leaned against a way too large metal tube and took a second to breathe. "What now?"
He opened his mouth to answer but was interrupted when a brown and white head poked up over the ledge, making Hermione jump.
"Where have you been?" The head hissed. He pulled himself onto the ledge and faced Mungojerrie, not seeming to take any notice of Hermione. This new boy was shorter than Mungojerrie, with a large brown patch around his left eye that flowed into a scar-like line that stopped at his right cheek. "Munkustrap is on the verge of blowing a fuse."
"When is he not?" Mungojerrie laughed, then sobered up a little when he saw the seriousness on the shorter boy's face. "Okay, okay. Sorry," he said, the apology not sounding entirely sincere. Hermione raised an eyebrow.
"You need to stop disappearing like this all the time, Jer," the shorter boy said, scooting back toward the ledge. "I know I'm not the most responsible here, but it's really starting to pull on the others' chains. Now, come on." He disappeared from the ledge, but popped up again, nodding to Hermione. "You too, whoever you are." Then he was gone again.
"No promises," Mungojerrie muttered under his breath, as he stepped off the ledge. Hermione blinked, then delicately eased herself down.
When she landed on the ground, her jaw dropped. Right in front of her was a sizeable cleared off area, surrounded by what she supposed was that junk wall they had approached earlier. There were license plates the size of small wardrobes, bicycle wheels at six times the size they would normally be, a broken oven probably large enough to stand in, and a ginormous car tire laying on its side. Scattered around the space were several entry points of various sizes, ranging from small holes like the one she had come through to full-on gaps in the circle. What surprised her the most, however, was the group huddled in the center of the yard.
"Wow," Hermione sighed in disbelief, squinting to get a closer look. In the group, she could make out a greyish person talking to two other strangely colored people, one with colors similar to Mungojerrie's, and the other a pitch black with a dash of white. The two were both wearing strange hats, and one was scratching their head as the grey person talked to them, seemingly exasperated. As it talked, the gray person looked up, waved their hand in a 'go-on' motion, and began to move towards where Hermione and Mungojerrie stood.
Mungojerrie swallowed, face contorted into an expression of nervousness, and ears flattened to the side of his head. "Just lovely."
As the grey person approached, Hermione could see that he was covered in black stripes, and he wore a thick black studded collar around his neck. His ears were straight up, tips twitching from the front to the side. He did not look happy.
Hermione leaned over to her companion. "Is this who your friend was talking about?" Mungojerrie nodded slowly, eyes still on the grey man.
"And where exactly have you been?" the man, who must've been Munkustrap, scolded as he marched towards Mungojerrie. "It's been hours since you've left, and you've missed rehearsal. Again."
Mungojerrie huffed but didn't say anything. Hermione could see that his expression was annoyed, and maybe even a little scared.
"Even your sister had a right mind to show up today," Munkustrap continued, now pinching the bridge of his nose. Hermione looked down, feeling guilty although she wasn't the one being chided. There was a beat, then he continued. "I don't even know why I bother getting angry with you anymore. It's just wasted feelings over something I won't be able to change… Who is this?"
Hermione looked up to find the grey man's eyes on her. They were piercing, but she didn't sense any hostility; however, she could easily sense the distrust radiating from him. "Me?"
"Yes, you," he replied. "I haven't seen you before."
Before Hermione could reply, Mungojerrie cut in, quick to explain why he was gone for so long. "This is Hermione. I found her alone in an alley tonight."
"Alone? In an alley?" Munkustrap echoed. There was a long silence as the grey man continued to stare at Hermione. He was clearly studying her. She stood there quietly as his bright blue eyes darted around her face, probably searching for any signs that she was not to be trusted. Finally, he spoke up again, addressing Hermione again. "How did you end up there?"
Several options of what to say next echoed in her head, none of which sounded very believable. She settled for telling the truth. "Well, in all honesty, sir, I doubt any hotel or home would be hospitable to a young girl like me who looked like this."
Munkustrap blinked. Mungojerrie snorted, then quickly ducked his head to stifle it. After the grey man had stared at her for a moment longer, he nodded his head. "Very well. And as for you…" he narrowed his eyes at Mungojerrie. "I believe it would be best if you joined the others. Jenny has taken over for me." Mungojerrie nodded quickly, and, with a small wave to Hermione, scampered towards the group gathered in the middle of the yard. Munkustrap's gaze followed the boy as he left, then it returned to Hermione.
"No matter how many times I tell him off, he hasn't changed a bit," he said, his tone annoyed. Then he smiled. His mouth had grown from a thin frustrated line to a kind smile, and his eyes, moments ago suspicious and wary, had softened. Although Hermione hadn't known Munkustrap for longer than a few minutes and all she had felt in his presence was an overwhelming sense of worry, his expression made her nervousness give way to a feeling of warmth.
"I'm Munkustrap, if Mungojerrie didn't already tell you," the grey man said. Hermione just nodded. "I suppose you could stay here for the time being, if that's alright with you."
"Yes, that's alright with me," Hermione responded.
"Perfect," Munkustrap nodded, the silver ring on his collar bouncing and making a small tapping against the leather material. "I'll just need to work out some details with the elders, and hopefully you'll be set." He beckoned to the open yard. "If you'll follow me."
When they reached the bottom of the protective wall, Hermione's jaw dropped again. The closer they had moved to the bottom, the larger and more intricate everything seemed to be. What appeared as a large cleared off area from the top of the wall was really something like a small community. All around her, people – cats, more like – were running around with stacks of… stuff. The boy Hermione had seen earlier, the one with the brown scarlike-marking, rushed by her with a Converse large enough to place on his head.
"This is…" Hermione gasped, her eyes large with wonder. "It was impressive enough from the outside, but from here…"
"Yeah," Munkustrap said quietly. He was attempting to hide a small smile, his chest puffed out a little more than it was before. He's proud, Hermione thought.
After a moment of silent awe, Hermione lightly patted Munkustrap on the arm. "Sir?"
He laughed softly as he shifted to face her. "Please, just call me Munkustrap."
"Alright then… Munkustrap." She offered a little smile. "I was just going to ask what all the commotion is about."
"Oh." He nodded. "We're rehearsing for a play. It's based off of an old tale that's been circulating around the tribe for ages. We tried to perform it last year, but it… didn't go so well." He grimaced, as if reliving the memory – an expression Hermione recognized from watching Professor Flitwick try (unsuccessfully) to keep his choir students in line. Her heart panged as she pictured the small man frowning as he rushed children into their spots, accompanied by the croaking of the toads…
"Hermione? Hermione. Are you alright?" She jumped at a hand on her shoulder. Munkustrap was looking at her, concerned. As she returned to reality, she could feel the fur under her eyes and on her cheeks had grown damp. She was crying.
"Yes, yes, sorry," she responded quickly, swiping her hand across her cheeks. The wetness made the fur on her hands clump together. It felt like wet paint. She didn't like it. "I just… lost focus."
Munkustrap simply looked at her, then he gave a small nod. "Okay… now come with me. I think we should get you somewhere you can rest." He said, gently taking her by the arm. She didn't object.
"There are a lot of us here, many of which we found trying to survive like you, and some who came across us instead," Munkustrap said as he led Hermione through the yard. "There are a few in the tribe who have found homes outside of the Junkyard, but they are few. It might take a little while to find you a place to stay for the time being."
"Well then, where will I be staying in the meantime?" Hermione asked, looking up at the taller man – or was he a tom at this point?
"It depends, really," he answered, smiling at a young girl with all white fur and sky-blue eyes. She waved, smiling shyly before disappearing into what looked like a very oversized shoebox.
"Like I said, there are a lot of us in the Junkyard," he continued. "And like I said, it could take a bit to find you a place to stay alone. For now, you could always stay over with me and my brother. But if you're not comfortable with that, I could find someone willing to house for as long as you need."
She briefly thought over his offer. He seemed trustworthy enough. "That sounds fine to me."
He gave her a small smile. "Great." His eyes shifted around, then he pointed to somewhere behind Hermione. "Would you like to go there now? To rest, I mean."
She nodded. "If it doesn't bother you."
He chuckled softly, the sound more like a quiet purr than a laugh. "It doesn't. Follow me."
"Here we are," Munkustrap said, stopping in front of a large black shape big enough to match a car in size.
Hermione blinked. "This is… this is a guitar case."
"Viola case, actually," Munkustrap corrected. "My brother wanted it to be a banjo case. Thank the Everlasting Cat we didn't find one."
Hermione looked at him in bewilderment. She figured that at this point he didn't know how strange he sounded. "So that's what you all live in? Stuff like… this?" She gestured to the viola case.
"Pretty much," he said, already undoing the latches. As he lifted the lid with a little huff of effort, Hermione could barely see inside. It was pitch black.
"Right then," Munkustrap said, holding the case open with one arm. Then, he slipped inside and let the lid shut. Hermione furrowed her brows. What had just happened? He didn't even lay down, he just… jumped inside. Like it was a swimming pool.
A knock from the inside of the case startled her. "Are you coming?" Munkustrap's voice came muffled from inside.
"Yes, yes, of course," Hermione called back, approaching the case. "So I just…" she whispered to herself as she pulled open the latches. She grunted as she lifted the lid, which was a lot heavier than Munkustrap made it look. She cautiously lifted a leg and placed inside the case, feeling around. Solid ground, solid ground… okay, that was definitely not solid ground. Hermione quickly pulled her leg back, eyes wide.
"Hermione!" Munkustrap called again, his voice distant from wherever in the case he was. Hermione swallowed. No matter how weird this case was, she was tired and figured this was the only place she could really get some rest. She placed one leg back into the case, then the other. She inched forward on the bottom of the case until the red velved faded into a black… something.
"Here I go," she inhaled, her eyes squeezed shut. Then she jumped, letting the snap shut behind her.