Harry Potter was surrounded. He could hear the cheers and feel the ground shaking as if in joy. He saw people dancing throughout the Great Hall, the corridors, the common rooms, as he wandered aimlessly through the crowds, almost unnoticed. Except-

"Harry! M'boy!" Slughorn. Harry turned, slowly, feeling every bone and muscle in his body groan in pain, in exhaustion.

"Professor," Harry said flatly, watching the potions master waddle towards him. His eyes were bright, shining with mirth. Harry wondered idly if he had lost anyone that night, and immediately regretted it, as he was flooded with pictures of Tonks, Colin Creevy, Lupin, and Fred. It was as if someone had stuck a knife in his stomach.

"Harry! Harry, Harry, Harry." Slughorn had reached him,and was pulling him into a side hug. "How do you like the party, M'boy? Boy who lived, eh? Mr Chosen one?'" Harry felt a choking sensation while Slughorn burst into laughter, followed by his posse of friends, students, and former students.

"It's great," said Harry earnestly, an easy lie. "I'm, uh, honoured. It's great to see everyone so happy." Once again, his intestines twisted at the thought of those who never had the chance to be happy. Who would never know a world without Voldemort, but had fought for it just the same.

"Well," Slughorn was saying. "I must say I am surprised you are so free! Where are your gaggle of fans? Perhaps a young lady or two? They didn't dump you, did they?" The crowd behind Slughorn seemed to find this enormously funny. "Ah, to be young and famous- didn't I tell you many of my former students went onto greatness? Perhaps you would like to meet a few of them?" Although in that moment there was nothing Harry would have liked less than meeting old members of the Slug Club, he found himself nodding. "Well of course you do, m'boy! This is your newest group of friends, I assure you. Nothing like talking one famous soul to another, eh?" Slughorn again let out a booming laughter that was quickly followed by a few half hearted chuckles from the crowd behind him. Harry felt as though their laughs were just as fake as the smile plastered across his own face. He had a hard time believing Slughorn's 'famous soul' assessment, and he had a feeling that the others did too.

A young brunette shook his hand vigorously. "Delilah Amberton, Mr. Potter. I'm a chaser for the Holyhead Harpies. Perhaps you've heard of us?"

Harry nodded wearily. "My girl-" He stopped, then rephrased. "My friend is a big fan. She talks about you all the time." His stomach twisted. The last time he had seen Ginny she had been crying in her mother's arms. Unbidden, tears began to fill his eyes.

Delilah smiled brightly. "That is an honor, Mr. Potter. Truly." Harry forced a smile, lips numb. There was an awkward silence, before the girl was pushed aside by a burly man in his early thirties.

"Peter Cadori, Deputy Head of Magical Artefacts. It's great to finally meet you. Have you considered a job in the Ministry?" He said this all very quickly, all the while furiously shaking Harry's entire arm.

"No, actually, I haven't," Harry said bluntly, withdrawing his hand. Cadori frowned uncomfortably.

"I see. Well, I know you're under quite a bit of pressure now, but I'm sure you'll reconsider."

"I won't," Harry snapped.

"Now, see here young man," Cadori growled. Harry balled his hands into fists, not even bothering to reach for his newly repaired wand. "You may be a hero, but keep that attitude, and I promise you-"

"Harry! I've been looking for you everywhere!" Harry spun around to see a bushy haired girl hurrying towards him, face flushed. "You've got to come with me, now!"

"Hermione?" Harry asked incredulously. "I thought you were-"

"For Merlin's sake, Harry, there's no time!" Hermione had grabbed his arm and was now pulling him away from Slughorn.

"Oh, right. Er, bye, Professor!"

"Goodbye, M'boy!" Slughorn yelled down the corridor, chuckling to himself.

Hermione turned right, then left, then left again, followed by two rights, pulling Harry into a part of the castle he had seldom been in. "Hermione," Harry gasped, out of breath. "Slow down!"

She stopped immediately, sending Harry crashing into her. "Right. Sorry." Hermione said apologetically.

Harry rubbed his head and sighed. "Are you going to tell me what the big deal is?" He asked after a moment, desperately trying not to think about who it could be. "Is someone else-?" His heart seemed to be caught in his throat as he forced the words out.

Hermione frowned. "No, Harry, everyone is fine. You don't need to be worried about anyone."

Harry felt like a million bricks had been lifted off his shoulders. He collapsed against the stone wall with a breath of relief. Everyone is fine, he told himself. Everyone is okay.

"I'm sorry I scared you," Hermione said anxiously, twisting a strand of hair around her finger. "But I could feel your misery across the room. It was the first thing I thought of."

Harry stood slowly. "Yeah, thanks, 'Mione." He began to walk away, head down, already lost in thought.

"Hey!" Hermione had her hand on his shoulder before he had gotten two feet. "And where exactly do you think you're going?" She had her hands on her hips, left foot tapping.

Harry gestured vaguely. "I dunno. Somewhere." He turned around, only to see Hermione had now strode in front of him.

"Harry, I know this is hard for you, but you have to stop isolating yourself!" She chided. "I'm trying to help you!"

"I DON'T NEED YOUR HELP!" Harry burst out, suddenly angry. Hermione looked taken aback. "Okay? Why doesn't anyone understand I just want to be alone?!"

For a long moment, Hermione just stood there, opposite to her best friend of seven years. Then, she spoke, softly. "You don't believe that, Harry. I know you don't." She sighed. "But it's not my choice." She moved closer to him, then added, "You can't push me away, you know."

She pivoted on one foot, then rapidly sped down the long corridor. Harry's heart had jumped back into his throat. He watched her go, unable to comprehend what he had just done. It's not my fault, he thought angrily. She doesn't understand!

"Hermione, wait!"