A/N: The delay between chapters, even though I had completed the rough draft in June, has resulted in a chapter I think you'll like. It has gone through such extensive rewrites that I no longer recognize the original chapter! I appreciate the encouragement and suggestions made by my pre-beta GhostWriter and my beta Aggiebell. You two are absolutely terrific!
To my readers, thank you for staying with my story and leaving such encouraging remarks in your reviews.
Harry awoke the following morning just as the sun began peeking through his window. Though free from bad dreams, the night had been far from restful. His thin, lumpy mattress provided little support and he had never found a comfortable spot.
Moaning quietly, Harry rolled off the bed and pushed himself upright. Grabbing yesterday's clothes, he headed for the bathroom.
"You get up early!" Dudley greeted him from his perch on Harry's bed twenty minutes later. "Don't you ever sleep?"
Surprised, Harry jerked his head in the direction of his aunt and uncle's room. "Keep it down!" he hissed, closing the door.
Dudley repeated the question.
Shaking his head, Harry replied, "Not on a mattress as lumpy as that one. Couldn't get comfortable at all last night." He rubbed his shoulder absently.
"Well, you ready to get started?" Dudley asked, looking somewhat disconcerted at Harry's admission and changing the subject.
"What about your parents?" Harry queried worriedly.
"Them? Are you kidding? They won't hear us with the racket Dad's making in there. Now, are you ready to get started?"
"Yeah." Harry tossed his things into his trunk and walked over to the pole he had set up the night before. Dudley heaved himself off the bed and grabbed the instruction sheet from Harry's desk.
"I read that letter you gave Mum yesterday," Dudley informed him casually. "Your school nurse doesn't think you can move your arm very easily without pain." He peered at Harry with his piggy little eyes. "How high can you raise your arm?"
Harry raised his arm until his shoulder began to hurt.
"That's as far as it will go?" Dudley asked, with a hint of sarcasm.
Harry nodded, feeling a bit annoyed at his cousin and thinking that he sounded an awful lot like Madam Pomfrey.
Dudley then asked Harry to move his arm several more ways before stepping back and frowning at the instruction sheet. Finally, he pulled several sheets of copy paper from his back pocket that was covered in stationary diagrams and Dudley's messy scrawl. He compared them to Madam Pomfrey's parchment.
"Well?" Harry asked when he could stand Dudley's silence no longer.
Dudley studied him a moment, then said, "Your school nurse was right. We gotta start with the stretchiest band. You can't lift your arm very high and according to this exercise sheet Robert and I worked with last term, you should have progressed to the third band by now."
"What else did it say?"
Dudley consulted his papers. "Ice the injury for twenty minutes several times a day. Have you been doing that?"
Dudley harrumphed and rolled his eyes. "Well, I guess that's the difference between sports medicine and whatever you people call it." He handed the pages to Harry and walked over to select the rubber band he wanted. "You can read that stuff later. Let's get busy. I want to work out before breakfast."
They started working. It seemed strange to Harry that Dudley could be encouraging at all; he had expected his cousin to act almost like Professor Snape at his worst, sneering at his students' efforts. Instead, Dudley calmly talked his way through each exercise, making sure Harry did each one correctly. By the time they were done, Harry needed another shower, so Dudley left, telling him to come out to the garage when he was done.
Harry was amazed at what Dudley had set up at the back of the garage near the kitchen door. The floor of Dudley's exercise area was covered with a thick rubber mat. Harry bounced lightly on the balls of his feet as he took in the transformed area. Immediately to his left, a set of free weights sat lined up on a rack in front of an old mirror. Next to it a speed bag was attached to the wall. In the far corner was a weight-lifting bench complete with weight bar. Finally, an old punching bag hung from the rafters in the middle of the space. Dudley had stripped to the waist and donned a pair of boxing gloves. His concentration was intense as he slugged the bag. He looked up, grinning, as Harry leaned against the door jam.
"This is nice," Harry commented appreciatively. "When did you put all this up?"
"Christmas hols," Dudley answered between punches. "The nurse at Smeltings watches me like a hawk and 'suggested' to Dad that I continue the training program she and the boxing coach have me on at school when I'm home during my school breaks. So Dad and I put this up."
"Do you work out every morning?" Harry asked, his curiosity mounting.
"Yeah. Drives Robert crazy on weekends, though Mum and Dad are happy I'm keeping up with my training this summer. You ever do any lifting at that school of yours?"
"A little," Harry answered, thinking of all the new equipment he had been using in the P-T Room at Hogwarts prior to the battle for Hogsmeade.
"Good. Then you'll know what to do." Dudley yanked off his gloves and strode over to the line of free weights. He selected two tiny dumbbells and then told Harry to join him in front of the mirror. "Robert's information sheet said you should be doing some lifting to build up your muscles. I made him come down to the gym with me because his doctor recommended it. He hated it at first, but the longer he trained, the better his shoulder got. I think yours will, too.
"I made a list of exercises you can do out here that may or may not require a small dumbbell." He shoved the weights into Harry's hands. "When you do these exercises watch yourself in the mirror to see if you're doing them right."
"What should I look for?" Harry asked earnestly.
"Don't slouch. Stand up straight," Dudley replied, poking Harry in the back. "Start with the easiest one first, and go slow for maximum effectiveness. You'll know if you're doing it right." Dudley paused, and then something akin to a sneer crossed his face. "Think you can handle all this?"
Harry shot Dudley a hard look before nodding and turning to the mirror. Dudley smirked and walked back over to the bag to resume his slugging. Harry gazed at himself in the mirror, feeling rather shy about watching his posture. I've got to do this if I'm going to heal up soon, he thought.
He then read through the list Dudley had fastened to a clipboard and hung on a nail next to the mirror. He was reluctant to try anything not prescribed by Madam Pomfrey, but his desire to get better soon won out over his inner protests. He started with the easiest exercise and progressed down the list until he had finished everything without the weights. Then, he did them all over again with the weights Dudley had given him, working until the pain had him gritting his teeth. He knew he had to push through it to get well and the sooner the better, he decided.
Suddenly, Dudley was at Harry's side, placing a rough hand on Harry's shoulder and stopping the exercise session. "Are you trying to kill yourself?" he scoffed. "Potter, if it hurts more than a little, stop and get an ice bag and give it a rest. You can do more later." He strode over to the weight bench muttering, "Stubborn git doesn't know when to quit."
Harry put the weights away and slipped back into the kitchen, warily looking round for his uncle. The snoring was still coming from upstairs and he heaved a sigh of relief. At the sound, Aunt Petunia looked up from where she stood at the stove making breakfast.
"Morning, Aunt Petunia," Harry said. He shut the door quietly. "Dudley said there was an ice bag in here somewhere. Where can I find it?"
His aunt put down her spatula. "What do you need it for?" she snapped. "And why were you bothering Dudley?"
"My shoulder hurts. Dudley said ice would help," Harry said, advancing further into the kitchen. He began opening cupboards, looking for the screw-top rubber-lined cloth bag he knew was kept near at hand.
"I'll get it. It's up too high for you to reach and I don't want you falling off the stepladder," Aunt Petunia told him irritably. She took the bag from a shelf above the stove and filled it with ice before handing it to Harry. "Mind that it doesn't drip."
Harry put the ice bag on his shoulder, silently wishing for one of Healer Rodkey's inflammation reduction charms. "Thanks," he mumbled. "I'm going upstairs to lie down."
"Don't fall asleep. Breakfast will be in thirty minutes. I won't hold your food," Aunt Pet