Harry was bleeding. Clutching his right hand in his left and swearing under his breath, he shouldered open his bedroom door. He stepped back, startled at the sound of breaking china as he stepped on a cup of tea that had been left on the floor outside his bedroom door.

"What the-?" He glanced around in surprise and saw the massive form of his cousin, frozen halfway down the stairs, staring at him with a mix of shock and terror.

"Nice, Dudley. Really brilliant joke," Harry muttered in disgust, sweeping up the broken pieces of the cup and retreating back into his room to throw them away.

"It wasn't a joke," Dudley stated indignantly. "I just thought you might want some tea while you packed and…forget it." Dudley turned to continue down the stairs.

Harry was taken aback. Had Dudley really just tried to do something nice for him? Harry watched Dudley waddle slowly down the stairs and felt like he should say something.

"Er...some tea would have been nice. Uh, thanks."

Dudley slowed for a moment and, glancing back at Harry, jerked his head in a nod before continuing downstairs. Harry watched him go in confused disbelief, trying to make sense of what had just happened. Eventually, he remembered that he was bleeding and continued to the bathroom to clean up his cut finger. As he wrapped it in a bandage, he promised himself to ask Hermione about healing charms the first chance he got.

As he exited the washroom, Harry nearly walked straight into his cousin. Dudley stood blocking the door to Harry's bedroom and holding two cups of tea.

"I got more," he mumbled, offering one cup to Harry.

"Oh, er...thanks," Harry replied, accepting the cup with his uninjured hand. Dudley leaving a cup of tea outside his door was one thing, but returning to hand him a cup in person was something completely different. They stood there in awkward silence for several moments until Harry cleared his throat. "I, uh, really need to finish packing."

"Right," Dudley answered, stepping slightly to the side, but making no motion toward leaving. Harry could tell that his cousin had something on his mind and was struggling to find the right words.

"You want to come in?" Harry reluctantly offered before he could stop himself.

Dudley glanced nervously around before he nodded and followed Harry into what had once been his second bedroom. Harry shifted a pile of Daily Prophets so Dudley could sit on the bed, but his cousin stood fidgeting just inside the doorway, looking slightly panicked. "It's alright, Dudley. I'm not going to curse you or anything," Harry stated, barely resisting the urge to roll his eyes.

Dudley sidled into the room and sunk heavily onto the bed, glancing around nervously once more. Harry busied himself with cleaning the remaining debris from the bottom of his trunk, more carefully than before, but he kept throwing curious looks at Dudley, waiting for his cousin to speak. After several minutes of silence, Harry's trunk was empty and he turned back to his cousin with a sigh.

"Was there something you wanted, Dudley? It's not like you to voluntarily remain in my presence for so long."

Dudley fiddled with his teacup for a moment before responding. "Mum said you aren't coming with us," he blurted out.

Harry looked at him strangely, "Right. We've been over this. It's not safe for you to stay here, so you and your parents are going off with some of 'my lot' for awhile. They'll look after you."

"No one told me that you weren't coming with us," Dudley mumbled.

"Does it matter? You don't even like me." He didn't add that the feeling was mutual. He figured, given their history, it went without saying.

Dudley didn't respond, he just continued to stare into his tea silently.

"Where is all of this coming from?" Harry asked, trying to make sense of Dudley's apparent change of heart.

Dudley remained silent for several moments. He fidgeted with his tea cup and never once looked up, even as he finally muttered, "You saved my life."

Harry gaped at him in astonishment. Dudley had just come dangerously close to expressing gratitude and he felt like he should make some sort of reply. "Well, your soul actually. The dementors wouldn't have actually killed you, just sucked out your soul..." he stopped at the look of horror etched on Dudley's face. "But, uh, yeah..." he finished lamely.

Dudley made an effort to pull himself together. "I just thought you were coming, too."

Harry decided it would be bad form to admit that he'd rather face Voldemort than continue living with the Dursleys. "I've got some things to take care of," Harry replied instead, struggling to ignore the sick sinking feeling settling in his stomach as he thought of the horcruxes and everything Dumbledore had left him to do.

"But why you? You're only sixteen!" Dudley asked, incredulously.

Harry shook his head. "I'll be of age in a few days and... it would take far too long to explain, but it has to be me. Why the sudden interest, anyway?" None of the Dursley's had ever expressed even the slightest interest in his life. To the contrary, they had forbidden him from ever mentioning it, for fear someone would overhear and think that the Dursleys were anything less than 'perfectly normal'.

Dudley shrugged, "I just wondered where you were going."

"I honestly don't know. Like I said, there are some things I have to take care of..."

"It's going to be dangerous, isn't it? Will there be more of those demen-toid things?"

Harry hesitated, but figured that there was no harm in being honest. "Yes, and dementors are probably the least of my concerns. That's why you have to leave. Look, there are people after me: powerful dark wizards. I'm going to try to stop them."

"But why you?" Dudley asked again.

Harry smiled wryly. "You have no idea how many times I've asked myself that same question. Look, Dudley, I've really got to finish going through this stuff. The people they're sending, Hestia and Dedalus, they're really good. You'll be safe with them. You don't need to worry."

"But what about you?" Dudley asked softly. "Will you be safe?"

Harry nearly fell over in shock. "Blimey, Dudley, you almost sounded like you cared."

"You saved my life," Dudley said again. "You saved my life and I never said thank you."

And you still haven't, Harry thought to himself in slight amusement, but he was flabbergasted by Dudley's complete change in demeanor. "Uh, well, you're welcome. What's gotten into you, Dudley? Did the dementors blow a different personality into you?"

He merely shrugged as he heaved himself off the bed. "Dunno. Good luck, Harry," he held out his hand, and Harry shook it mutely.

Dudley made his way out of the room, but paused in the doorway. "Be careful," he mumbled. "And, uh, maybe keep in touch or something?"

"Yeah," Harry replied in a daze, "Er, I'll try. Take care, Big D."

Dudley smiled slightly and waddled out of the room.

Harry sank onto the bed that his cousin had just vacated and wondered if it really was possible for a dementor to blow a new personality into someone. He added it to the list of questions to ask Hermione the next time he saw her and turned his attention back to his trunk.

"Harry was bleeding. Clutching his right hand in his left and swearing under his breath, he shouldered open his bedroom door."

-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pg. 13 (U.S. edition)

"Did the dementors blow a different personality into you?"

-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pg. 42 (U.S. edition)