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Moving On by caryjanecarter
Chapter 1 : Walk Into Eternity
 
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Moving On
By caryjanecarter

{S/R: This was written for a Time collab set up by PadfootBlack16 that never left the ground, so I was given the go-ahead to post it on my own author's page. Read it and weep.}

C~~~~~~P

‘And, as we stand here today on the brink of a new generation…’

I sighed, scratching my head underneath the funny square hat that they make you wear for stuffy Muggle graduations, sighing under the cover of the dimly lit auditorium. The dean’s voice was boring on a good day, and today wasn’t the best of days. This ceremony had taken long enough. At that point in time, I just wanted to go home to my flat and Frisks, my fluffy cat, get out of this horrid gown, and take a bath… maybe even a nap…

‘And then what?’ a nagging voice in the back of my head said. ‘You’ll lay around forever until you shrivel up and die?’

The voice surprised me. I had never been a planning sort of person, preferring to live in the ‘day-to-day’ mindset - the kind of mindset that says to wait until tomorrow, wait for another, better time for improving my character and just live for the emotions that filled that one space in time. But graduating a second-rate Muggle college with only a degree in German and a day job at a small bookstore to my name must have woken that voice up. I hadn’t heard it since the N.E.W.T.s oh so long ago in Hogwarts.

‘You’ve never pictured life without school,’ the voice continued, jeering at me. ‘Maybe you should just give up and go to school for the rest of your life!’

‘This knowledge will help them in years to come…’

For some reason, those last words beat around in my brain for a minute. ‘Years to come.’ Sure, I’d thought of them, but never in the “What are you going to do with your life?” way; I would just imagine the freedom I’d get. But what would come of that freedom? All of my friends – even my boyfriend - had been killed in the second war with You-Know-Who. Desperate, I had turned to my down-to-earth father’s suggestion of returning to the Muggle world and getting a “respectable education” at college. So, here I was, a twenty-six-year-old in an undergraduate graduation ceremony in a small country university. And now I was fighting myself about whether I wanted to leave or not!

‘Get a grip, Penny,’ I told myself stubbornly. ‘You’ll survive it in the outside world, plans or no.’

‘But for how long?’ the nag asked. ‘How long do you expect to get by on luck alone?’

“Daphne Abler, would you please come forward?”

Oh, no. They’d started calling names. I panicked inside. ‘Why do I have to do this NOW?’ I had plenty of time to freak out during my finals, even my midterms – but NO, my nag decides to emerge during the actual graduation ceremony! I always had the worst of timings - like with that stupid, terrifying basilisk in sixth year.

“Ryan Berkhalter…”

My name was looming closer and closer, and so was my doomsday. I didn’t want the pressures of the real world and an adult life anymore – I wanted to stay in school forever. School was safe, pre-organized, comfortable, easy – something I knew what to do with and where I knew what was expected of me.

“Penelope Clearwater.”

Damn. It was my turn.

I stood up and awkwardly shuffled by the people still sitting down in the faded red-covered folding seats, my itchy maroon gown trying to tangle up my feet. I reached the aisle with a lurch and straightened up my gown. I turned around, dignified once more, and faced the stage, beginning the slow processional march they had taught us at the rehearsal the day before.

Normally, people would say that it took too long to walk up to their graduation stage. On the contrary, my walk couldn’t take long enough. Right at that moment, I was content to walk forever; never eating, never sleeping… just walking, slowly and steadily, my target always just beyond my reach…

But what personal growth came from a walk into eternity? I wouldn’t make anything of myself, or help make anything of others. I would just be wasted space, floating around forever without a purpose.

I hate waste.

With that one realization, I saw what I had become. I wasn’t anything special anymore - I was just a floating human being in the sea of faces, not even making a dent in the scarred earth. I didn’t want to be just another face in the crowd - I had always wanted to make a difference in the world. I had always thought I would make a difference in the world. Now, it seemed I had nothing to work with. What had happened to me?

Well, no matter. I can’t change the past, but maybe I can predict the future. I will fix my face so that it stands out like a rubber duck in a prison. I must, I couldn’t live otherwise. I made it to the bottom of the stage and looked up the short set of stairs at the future someone else had picked out for me. After this day, I would forget any of the days I had had in this miserable hellhole they call a school and go back to where I really belonged - in the Wizarding world. I couldn’t deny the part of me that had made me more who I was than my own family had.

I set my jaw and strode up the stairs and across the stage as fast as the march would let me, smiling automatically at the dean. “Congratulations, Penelope,” he said under the patter of the applause from the small crowd, handing me my diploma and shaking my hand.

I suppressed a grimace. I hated my full name. That’s why I insisted people call me Penny, but the teachers never listened. Now, they didn’t need to.

We broke contact and I went to stand by the huge rugby star Avery Clarkson. My outside hadn’t changed much in that walk up the aisle – my head was still itchy, my gown was still overheated in the heat of the tightly compacted bodies in a too-small space, and I still needed a bath and a nap, but my inside had a new outlook on that outside. I could face this challenge, no matter the odds. My friends had faced You-Kno- no. He was called Lord Voldemort, not You-Know-Who. That was what the old Penny called him.

Moving on.

My friends had faced Lord Voldemort, and I had stayed behind in my fear at my Muggle heritage and of him and his followers. Now I was going to step forward and take the reins of this new path I’d made, because that’s what we humans do. We fight, we love, we laugh, we cry, but it all boils down to two ultimate choices. You either go with the flow and get trampled by the masses, or you make your own way through life. And I wasn’t about to get stampeded like a mouse in an elephant’s path. No, I was going to succeed, I was going to blaze a new path.

Or my name wasn’t Penelope Clearwater.


C~~~~~~P

{A/N: That was a lot shorter than I thought it was going to be. Ah well. Enjoy. And this was actually written pre-DH… so pretend her boyfriend isn‘t Percy. :)}




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