Author's Note: Hey everyone! It's about that time for another fic! This one will be about six chapters (about the same length as Family Night). It was written for my friend ckat44, who also acted as the beta (and did a marvelous job!). She wanted a fic dealing with claustrophobia, since we both agreed it would make sense for Harry to have some issues with closed-in spaces after being locked in a cupboard for the majority of his life. So, I wrote this for her very wonderful self! She has been an awesome beta throughout, as well, and I give her full credit for inspiring this fic. I hope you all enjoy!
"Do you see, Harry? Do you see the flaw in my brilliant plan now? I had fallen into the trap I had foreseen, that I had told myself I could avoid, that I must avoid."
"I cared about you too much," said Dumbledore simply. "I cared more for your happiness than your knowing the truth, more for your peace of mind than my plan, more for your life and the lives that might be lost if the planned failed…"
-p. 838 HP and the Order of the Phoenix
From the moment he had been removed from the Dursley's "care", Harry's summer had been looking up. Though he'd initially been deeply uncomfortable back in Grimmauld Place, and still often felt haunted by memories of his late godfather, his friends were determined to keep his mind off the negative. Even if he didn't always feel like cooperating with their efforts, he kept forcibly reminding himself that he didn't want to be the angsty, depressed, angry teenager he'd been the year before. After all, it wasn't going to help and he'd really put his friends through enough with the "woe is me" act the previous year. Hermione now insisted she understood his behavior, that he'd been suffering "survivor's guilt", but he still didn't think that was much of an excuse. It had felt too strange to have Hermione trying to explain to him how he felt, but the fact that his friends had gone to so much trouble to be there for him and understand him made him all the more determined to reward them with good behavior.
It was for that reason he agreed to join in a childish game of hide-and-seek, which had been initiated when Ginny had found him sitting on Sirius's bed staring out the window. He had been chosen as the seeker, most likely because they didn't want him alone in some hiding spot with his thoughts. In the next round, when he was also hiding, he was sure he'd find someone making up an excuse to share his spot.
Tiptoeing down the third floor hall, he kept an ear out for any signs of movement, but caught wind of something even better, a vague whisper he'd almost missed coming from the closet. Nobody ever really went up here, which was why it was a popular choice for hiding spots, though Harry thought it was a bit obvious. Granted, it wasn't more obvious than Ron's occasional choice of hiding in the kitchen, usually giving himself away by opening the cupboards and ice box looking for food.
With a small grin, Harry made sure to keep very quiet until he grabbed the doorknob and threw open the door, laughing at the two shouts of surprise from inside. The twins marched out, glaring playfully at him.
"Hey, you guys don't want to be found, you shouldn't hide together and whisper," Harry laughed.
"It was my hiding spot; George decided to mooch," Fred grumbled.
"Actually, my dear brother, I believe it was I who claimed this as my spot of choice while Harry was still in the twenties," George protested theatrically.
"Only after I announced I was thinking of it."
"I don't know that either of you should be bragging. It's a pretty lame hiding spot," Harry teased with a laugh.
Fred and George exchanged a mischievous grin and before Harry had time to react, the two had each grabbed one of his arms and pushed him into the closet.
Harry froze in horror as the door slammed, plunging the tight space into darkness.
He tried to take a deep breath, but his throat constricted in fear. He could feel his breathing speed up and become shallower.
"Calm down. Calm down, Harry. Nothing's going to happen. Don't be stupid. It's just a closet," he said to himself firmly, but his other thoughts began to drown his self-assurances out, covering them like a dense fog. He felt as if the walls were closing in, as if the air was running out, as if any second he'd realized he was trapped in there with someone who was going to hurt him….
He desperately tried the doorknob to no avail, hating himself as he heard a choked whimper escape his lips. Trying to keep his emotions under control he banged on the door a bit with the palm of his hand, having to then wrap his arms around his waist to keep from doing anything more drastic.
"Funny, guys. Let me out," he called, his voice much more calm than his heart as he tried to convince himself that nothing was in the closet with him. Nothing was going to grab him from behind, wrap its hands around his neck until he couldn't breathe.
He rubbed a hand anxiously along the front of his neck as he waited for a reply from the twins to break the overwhelming silence.
They've left me here. Nobody's coming to let me out. I'm going to be trapped. I can't breathe. I can't breathe!
"Fred! George! I'm serious! Let me out right now!" he screamed, thankful that it came across as more angry than frightened.
The walls are closing in. There's not enough air. It's going to choke me. Is that my breathing or someone else's? Someone's here. He's in here. He's behind me. I can feel him breathing on my neck.
"LET ME OUT!" he screamed, banging on the door and furiously jiggling the handle. His mouth felt dry and he was trembling all over. He felt sick to his stomach and he couldn't seem to get in enough air with each gasp.
He rubbed a hand furiously over the front of his neck, certain he had felt a hand there, beginning to choke him, just seconds before. Even with his own hand there, he still couldn't shake the feeling that someone was slowly choking the life from him.
Suddenly, the horrible feeling swept over him that someone was standing right behind him. He could swear he felt a hand on his shoulder and another squeezing off his breathing.
White hot panic coursing through him, he threw his body against the door, banging and shaking the handle, screaming for someone, anyone, to just let him out.
When he was bathed in light, he lunged toward the source before registering what it even meant. Someone grabbed his upper arms and he cried out, trying to twist away.
"Harry?! Gods George, get Dad. Harry?! What's wrong?"
Harry whipped his head around to find Fred's blurry face watching him in confused fright. His vision swam as he tried to gasp in air. Everything was spinning, causing the world around him to seem surreal.
"Harry?! Harry, don't pass out." Harry jolted uncomfortably as fingers snapped right in front of his face. "Maybe you should sit down?"
At a violent lurch in his stomach, Harry pushed himself away and ran to the nearby bathroom on unsteady legs, collapsing in front of the toilet. As he dry heaved, he felt a hand on his back and he furiously pushed it away.
"Get away from me!" he snapped, his voice shaking as badly as he was.
"Harry, I'm so sorry," Fred pleaded. "I'm so sorry! Just tell me what's wrong!"
"What's going on? Harry?"
Harry looked up to see Mr. Weasley kneeling beside him. He jerked away as he felt a hand on his shoulder.
"I'm okay," he said quickly, breathlessly, trying to convince himself of it as well. His eyes flickered over to the growing crowd at the door and felt his panic give way into burning humiliation. He lowered his eyes in shame.
Mr. Weasley visually appraised the situation as people began to ask questions about what had happened and if Harry was all right.
"Everyone out," he demanded, with more authority than Harry had ever heard him use.
"But Dad," several of the Weasley kids protested, unsure what to make of their father's behavior. It seemed that Harry wasn't the only one who was rarely shown this side to the Weasley patriarch.
"Now," he said sternly. "I'm not kidding. Everyone out."
As the Weasley children grumbled and moved down the hall, Harry started for the door as well, but Mr. Weasley laid a hand on his shoulder and shook his head slightly. The redhead moved toward the door where Order members peered in worriedly, his wife pushing her way passed the others.
He stepped into the hallway and gave the group a significant look.
"Er, I think I left the oven on," Tonks declared.
"Good one, Tonks," Kingsley muttered, rolling his eyes as they began to move downstairs. Tonks being allowed near an oven was too preposterous even for someone recovering from a panic, but Arthur hoped Harry would let it slide.
His wife stood her ground, and Moody lingered.
"Find out what happened, Arthur, and then we'll be needing to decide what to do about it," Moody said dangerously, as if there were some sort of foul plot afoot. He hobbled away as Molly looked up at Arthur worriedly.
"Is Harry alright?" she asked anxiously. "I just heard that he had some sort of…"
Arthur shook his head abruptly and pulled the door behind him almost completely shut.
"I'll talk to you about it later. I think I should talk to him first, see what happened," he said quietly.
His wife nodded. "I think that's a good idea. I'll talk to him after. Oh the poor dear, he's never had a father figure and now that Sirius..." She trailed off and wiped her eyes with her apron.
Arthur nodded and gave his wife a quick peck before entering the bathroom and closing the door, surprised to see Harry standing nervously in the center of it, trying to calm his breathing.
"Harry?" he asked in concern.
"Yeah?" Harry squeaked in reply. He blushed and in a slightly calmer voice apologized. "I'm really fine. I just..." He trailed of uncertainly.
Arthur took a seat on the edge of the bathtub and gestured for Harry to do the same on the closed lid of the toilet seat. Harry chewed on his lip and wrung his hands as he sat. Ron's father put a hand gently on Harry's forearm and Harry stiffened uncontrollably.
"Hey, it's okay, Harry. Just tell me what happened," Mr. Weasley coaxed. "I gathered that the twins locked you in the closet…" He stopped himself as he saw Harry's eyes light up in fear and his hand fly compulsively to his neck. "Was there something in there?"
Harry shoved his hands between his knees and looked down in shame. "No. It was nothing. It was stupid."
"It's not stupid if you're upset by it," Arthur said kindly. "Just tell me what happened in there. I promise I won't think it's stupid."
"Nothing happened. There wasn't anything in there. I just was being an idiot," he muttered in embarrassment. Arthur had a flash of clarity.
"Was it being in the closet itself?"
Harry's eyes shot up to meet his, reminding Arthur of a frightened animal. The boy's hand once again rubbed over his throat. He nodded so fractionally that Arthur almost didn't detect the movement.
"I didn't know you were claustrophobic," he said gently. "I'm surprised it didn't come up in the Burrow as everything's very compact there."
Harry sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "It's not small rooms really. I mean, I'm fine in here right now. It's just really small spaces, especially when it's dark. I know it's stupid, I just, I don't know, I just freak out," he said, clearly frustrated with himself.
"Everyone's afraid of something, Harry," Arthur assured him.
"Yeah, but most people are afraid of things that make sense, like Voldemort or something." Arthur tensed at the name. "I'm afraid of closets? It's so dumb," Harry said miserably, his hand running over his neck again.
"It's not dumb. Your fears don't have to make sense. You know, I used to be terrified of deep water. I refused to go in when I couldn't see the bottom," Arthur revealed. "There was no reason for it. Never a bad experience in the water or anything."
Harry looked up at him hopefully. "And you're not afraid of it anymore? How did you get over it?"
"The kids were swimming around in the pond when they were younger and Ron somehow wiggled out of the floaties we'd put on his arms. He just disappeared. I didn't think, I just jumped in and got him before he even had time to register what had happened. And that was it!" Arthur said with a shrug.
Harry offered him a small smile in return. "Don't think it'll work if I have to save Ron from a locked closet though."
Arthur chuckled a little at that. "Well, in the meantime, it's nothing to be ashamed about. If any of my kids pokes fun at you, just remind them of what you did for Ginny in her first year. Facing a basilisk and You Know Who for the second time? Sounds pretty brave to me."
"Thanks, Mr. Weasley," Harry replied, looking warily at the door.
"I wouldn't be surprised if Molly's giving them a lecture about not making a big deal out of this."
Harry breathed a sigh of relief. Arthur patted him on the back, frowning when Harry stiffened under the touch. He couldn't shake the feeling that Harry escaped the bathroom a little too quickly after that, but whether he was eager to get away from the closed in space or from the elder man, Arthur couldn't say.
"This is a weakness we can't afford," Moody growled, banging his fist on the table in frustration.
"Harry's a human being," Arthur protested heatedly. "He's faced You Know Who personally more than any of us. He faced a Basilisk to save my daughter! He went into the Hogwarts' lake when he didn't know how to swim for my son! I think he can be allowed to have a touch of claustrophobia."
"Use your head, Weasley!" Moody snapped. "What's going to happen when the Death Eaters get their hands on him and lock him in a small cell? Is it just going to be a cute little quirk then? If his enemies find out about this, it can be used as a method of torture, of interrogation. They can use it to break him when he needs to be strong enough to fight back!"
Several people nodded in agreement.
"Isn't it our job to keep him from being kidnapped and tortured?" Molly demanded, getting upset as she always did when the Order meetings turned to this kind of discussion in regards to Harry.
"Yes, it's worked rather well so far, wouldn't you say?" came the sarcastic reply from Snape. "It's a miracle when a decent period of time passes without Potter getting himself into trouble. Perhaps we should work first on curbing his undying need for attention."
"How dare you!" Molly shouted furiously, bits of hair coming loose from her bun as she whipped her head around to glare at anyone who seemed as if they might say something negative about the raven-haired boy. "Harry does not put himself in danger for attention. If you'd take five minutes to actually get to know him, you'd see that he hates attention! He's shy!"
"Shy? I beg your pardon?" Snape sneered. "Are we speaking about the same arrogant little brat or…"
"Enough!" Dumbledore interrupted, his first time speaking since the most recent topic of discussion began. "This is a potential problem. Arthur, how disabling is this phobia?"
"I'm not sure, Albus," Arthur admitted. "Fred and George said it looked pretty serious, but they could have been exaggerating. They were very disturbed by the whole thing."
"We need to find out what we can about the severity of this and then decide if we should take further action. Arthur, Molly, do you think Harry might open up to either of you about it? I'd ask Remus, but he will be on assignment for several weeks."
"We'll try," Arthur promised.
When the meeting was over and the Weasley parents were alone in the kitchen, Molly took her husband's hand in hers and looked at him earnestly. "Arthur, Harry's never had any adult he could see as a parental figure. I think we come closest and I don't think we've done enough," she admitted in distress. "I want you to give him someone to trust that can be more fatherly. Someone he can relate to. You're so good with the boys, if you could just spend some time with Harry, talk to him…"
She trailed off as her husband gently kissed the top of her head. "I promise, I'll do my best with him. I'll have to ease into it, I think, or I'll just scare him off, but you can just keep on doing your scary overbearing mother bit."
He chuckled as his wife playfully hit him with an oven mitt. Molly then hugged him tightly and he wrapped his arms protectively around her.
"Oh Arthur, I'm so worried about him. To think of people doing what Alastor was talking about, of him being scared and alone…I can't stand it," Molly said fearfully.
"I know." He sighed. "Tomorrow, you can distract the kids while I try to talk to Harry.
Harry shifted uncomfortably in his chair as Mr. Weasley shot him a kind smile, his chair pulled up near Harry's. Harry sipped his tea uneasily, more in order to have something to do with his hands than anything else.
"How is your summer going, Harry?" Arthur asked warmly. Harry looked up at him suspiciously.
"Okay, I guess," he answered slowly.
"Just okay?" Mr. Weasley asked with a tinge of concern.
Harry shrugged. "Well, it's been better since I've been here, but it's weird being back without Sirius," he admitted quietly.
"I'm sorry about Sirius. I know this must be a very hard time for you," Arthur said understandingly.
Harry shrugged and looked back down at his lap.
Arthur frowned. "If you ever want to talk about any of that, you can come to me, alright?"
"'Kay, thanks," Harry muttered dismissively. Arthur wondered how many people had told him that, and how many had meant it. Even if they had, Arthur wasn't sure that Harry would be able to open up to anyone.
"Harry, I wanted to talk to you about your claustrophobia," Arthur said gently. Harry blushed and averted his eyes in shame. "Hey, it's okay, you know. I just want to talk to you about it."
"I don't know what there is to talk about," Harry said with a frustrated sigh.
"Well, the Order is concerned because we don't want anyone to use it to hurt you."
"What do they want me to do about it?' Harry asked, seeming quite stressed. "If I could control it I would, but it's like telling Ron that spiders aren't going to hurt him. It doesn't matter! I can't just switch it off; I've tried talking myself out of it and it doesn't work!"
"Don't worry, we all know that." Arthur paused unsurely. How were they going to help Harry? The raven-haired teenager was right, they couldn't just reason with him. Harry had probably tried his best to reason with himself. "Well, do you think it might have been sparked by any specific event?"
"Not that I can think of," he said softly, staring into his teacup and taking a sip.
Arthur nodded. "Well, that's normal. A lot of time these things come out of nowhere, right?" He cast Harry a comforting smile and was answered with a polite, but clearly uncomfortable, half-smile from the nervous teen. "Okay, then. How about telling me what happened in that closet? How bad was it?"
"Do we really need to talk about this?" Harry asked in a pleading voice, looking anxiously toward the door.
"I'm sorry, Harry. I know it's probably a bit odd to talk to me about this sort of thing, but it's okay; you can trust me. You can talk to me."
Harry sank slightly in his chair, looking a bit as if he were trying to make himself smaller somehow. "What do you guys need to know?"
Arthur frowned. Clearly, Harry wasn't looking at this as a cozy one-on-one with a trusted adult figure. Well, he'd have to take what he could get. "Er, just walk me through what you feel when you're locked in a cupboard."
Harry looked absolutely mortified.
"Right, erm, I guess I just sort of freak. I can sort of hold myself together for a few minutes, but then…I can't breathe," he explained softly. "It's like there's something choking me. And I think someone's in there with me, which I know is bloody—er really stupid, sorry. And…I don't really know how to describe it. I can't think rationally and I start to feel dizzy and feel like I'm going to be sick. I just get really certain that if I don't get out of there I'm going to die." He looked up with a sigh to see Arthur's concerned face. "I know, stupid, right?"
"Hey," Arthur looked into Harry's eyes with an earnest look, "it's not stupid."
"So what's the Order going to do about it?" Harry asked uncertainly.
"I'm not sure. It seems to be quite serious so we might consider some sort of therapy."
Harry stilled and stared at him incredulously. "You want to send me to a shrink?"
Arthur was taken aback at Harry's reaction. "If that's what's going to help you."
"You think I'm crazy. You all think I'm nutters!" Harry accused, sounding betrayed. "I don't need a shrink trying to analyze me!"
"Harry, I, nor anyone else, think you're crazy. Therapy isn't something to be ashamed of. It's something to help you get over your fear."
"Well tell the Order that they can just forget about it! I can deal with it. I'll figure it out on my own, without them having to officially label me as some sort of freak!" he said angrily, setting his teacup on the desk and jumping to his feet.
"Nobody thinks that, Harry!"
"I knew that's what everyone would think! Can't we just forget it ever happened?"
"Nobody is thinking anything like that. It's good we know so we can help you," Arthur reasoned, but Harry was having none of it.
"Well tell the stupid Order that they can go help someone else! I don't need their stupid help."
With that, Harry practically fled from the room, leaving Arthur slightly stunned in his wake. That admittedly wasn't how he pictured the whole thing going. He always connected so well with his own kids, he figured it would be easy to do so with Harry. He suppose he'd assumed that Harry would be desperate for some sort of father figure in Sirius's absence, not really considering that Harry might have trouble finding that in him. Or maybe the teen had had one too many parental situations not work out for him and was now avoiding them to protect himself.
Arthur sat back down in his chair and rested his forehead in his hands, trying to figure out how he was going to salvage this situation.
"Hey Dad," came a hesitant voice from the door, "you okay?"
Arthur looked up to see Ron and gestured him in. Ron closed the door behind him and walked over.
"So, how did talking with Harry go? Not well?" he asked sympathetically.
Arthur sighed and shook his head with a helpless smile. "I should have stepped up for him earlier. It might be too late. He seems nervous just being alone in the same room with me."
"Well, don't take it personally. He used to be all nervy about seeing Professor Lupin alone for tutoring, but he got over it. He used to be a wreck any time he had detentions with one of the professors, well, at least all the blokes. I think it has something to do with his uncle," Ron admitted conversationally.
"Yeah, the way he acts when he has to be alone with adult men is the same way he reacts when someone brings up his uncle. It's kind of weird, but I guess you can't blame him. Probably thinks everyone's going to yell at him or lock him in a cupboard or something, especially since usually, the only time people want to speak to him alone is when he's in trouble," Ron said distractedly, digging through the bowl of candy on the desk.
"Lock him in a cupboard? Why would he think that?" Arthur asked in alarm.
Ron blinked at him. "I told you Harry didn't have a real bedroom before he got his Hogwarts letter."
"Ron, you say your bedroom's not a real bedroom," Arthur pointed out. "And what does that have to do with this cupboard business?"
"Harry's bedroom used to be in the cupboard under the stairs until he got his Hogwarts letter. Then they got scared and gave him his cousin's second bedroom," Ron informed him, sounding familiar enough with the story to be relatively unruffled by it.
"What?" Arthur asked angrily.
"Yeah, they're awful, really. I tried to tell mum when we went to pick Harry up in second year; they had locked him in his room and were starving him. He tried to pass it off as not a big deal, like he always does, but if I had to live off one bowl of soup a day between me and Pig, I would use magic to break the bars off my bloody window. That has to be a valid excuse to use underage magic, right?"
Arthur was shocked. "Ron, why didn't you tell me this?"
Ron looked up at him in surprise. "Harry says it's not a big deal and he really doesn't want anyone to know. If I'd found out they were really hurting him or something, I would have told you, I swear."
"Ron, you should have told me about this earlier! That's very serious!" Arthur scolded.
"What was I supposed to say? He has a lot of chores and a small room. You and mum get mad at me when I complain about that stuff," Ron protested defensively.
"Ron, it's sounding to me like there's a very big difference between your home life and Harry's home life. Now I need you to be honest with me and not exaggerate and tell me what you know about Harry's home life, now and when he was growing up," Arthur instructed gravely.
"Harry doesn't like to talk about it and he asked me not to tell anyone what he did tell me. He trusted me to keep it secret," Ron said, shifting uncomfortably.
"In this case, you might be hurting Harry by keeping his secret," Arthur said bluntly. "I promise you, if you tell me something that I don't think is important, I'll never bring it up again. But there seems to be some things I really need to know about."
Ron looked torn, unsure which path to take to cause his friend the least amount of harm. Eventually, however, he sighed and chose, as he usually did, to trust his father.
"He says the Dursleys hate him. Dudley and his friends used to beat him up when they were little, and his aunt and uncle didn't do anything to stop it. In fact, I think they encouraged it. And Harry's the only one who does chores around his house and from the few things I've picked up it seems like he's practically a house elf. It's not just chores, though. Once, he was telling me about this other thing, and he mentioned that they made him serve them food and drinks while they were sitting 'round the living room," Ron said in disgust. "He told me about the cupboard the first time I met him 'cause he was trying to make me feel better about not having much money, I think. It seemed like he didn't really think anything was wrong with it until I went off about it. He never mentioned it again and whenever I ask about it he changes the subject. I just know they tried to keep him from getting his Hogwarts letters and gave him the room because the letters mentioned his cupboard."
"Why didn't they want him to get his Hogwarts letter?" Arthur asked, perplexed.
"They hate magic. Harry mentioned once that his aunt and uncle tried to squash it out of him when he was growing up, whatever that means. 'Course, he probably didn't get it at the time since he didn't even know he was a wizard until Hagrid showed up, can you imagine?"
Arthur didn't know how to respond. He was bubbling with anger at the Dursleys, but also with guilt. Harry had spent part of every summer with them since he was twelve and Arthur had never really regarded him as anything more than Ron's friend. Aside from occasional questions about Muggle life in general and in his third year warning to him about Sirius being on the loose, his longest conversation with Harry had been right after his panic attack. He didn't know the boy at all. Maybe this would have been normal with his kids' other friends, but he had known that the Dursleys were horrible to Harry and that the boy had no adult figure to turn to. He'd seen their appalling behavior himself two summers prior. Yet, he had never talked to Harry about it and had allowed himself to excuse it, telling himself that he didn't know enough about the situation to pass judgment. He had assumed they were just angry about their fireplace and the twins' prank on their son. He hadn't known what to think about the odd lack of Harry in their family photos, but had dismissed it from his thoughts as he became caught up in the excitement of going to the World Cup. All in all, he had just become another adult that Harry couldn't rely on, just another one that turned a blind eye to the horrors going on at his home.
"Dad? You okay? You're not going to tell Harry I told you, are you?" Ron asked worriedly.
"Ron, I have to talk to Harry about this. This is very serious and I'm disappointed that you didn't tell me about this earlier," Arthur scolded sternly.
"You said we should keep our noses out of other families' business!" Ron protested defensively. "You said you didn't want to hear us talking about other people's family problems so how was I supposed to know this was okay to tell you!"
"Gossiping about whether or not our neighbors are getting divorced is completely different than privately informing your mother or me about a friend being abused by their family!" Arthur rebuked.
"Well Harry said it wasn't a big deal! And sure he's got a rotten family, but it's not really abuse, right?" Ron asked apprehensively, sensing he may have made a bad mistake.
"There's such thing as mental and emotional abuse," Arthur said darkly. The man sighed as his son began to look guilty. "And you're positive they've never physically hurt him."
"Pretty positive," Ron answered hesitantly. At the look on his father's face he jumped on the defensive again. "What? He's never mentioned it but it's not like he likes talking about them at all. What was I supposed to do? It's not like you just ask people those kind of questions!"
Arthur nodded and after a moment embraced his son.
"Dad, Harry's going to be okay, right?" Ron asked worriedly when they broke away.
"I hope so, Ron. I'm going to be having some difficult conversations with him very soon. I just hope they're not too late."
"How did your talk with Harry go?" Molly asked her husband that night after everyone was in bed.
Arthur sighed. "My talk with Ron after it was much more informative. Molly, I think I know why Harry's claustrophobic."
"You do?" Molly asked in surprise. "I thought they said this sort of thing usually doesn't have a cause."
"Yes, but they said that sometimes it did, and in this case, I'm pretty sure it was caused," Arthur said angrily. His wife looked at him worriedly and Arthur continued. "Molly, Ron told me that the Dursleys used to lock Harry in a cupboard. It was his bedroom!"
Molly stared at him in shock. "What?"
"And then, when he got his Hogwarts letter, they moved him into his cousin's second bedroom and stuck bars on his windows!"
Molly gasped. "Oh no! They were serious about that? I thought…I thought they were exaggerating! I mean, it seemed so ridiculous! Bars on the windows?!"
"I think everyone thought they were exaggerating. No one ever had a serious talk with an adult about it. The few comments Ron made about it were so vague and sounded so much like complaints he makes around the house all the time, how were we supposed to know it was something like this? And I get the impression that Ron's probably the only one who knows most of it but he doesn't seem to understand how serious it all is. When I asked him why he never told us, he said Harry didn't want him to tell and that we told him not to gossip about other people's families."
"That's not what we meant!" Molly exclaimed.
"I know, I know, but apparently that's how at least Ron took it. It doesn't help that he doesn't seem to feel Harry was technically being abused in any way."
Molly went white. "Oh gods, Arthur, you don't think they…"
"I don't think so," Arthur cut her off. "We can't be certain, of course, but Ron said he never noticed anything like that."
"Oh Merlin, Arthur, this is horrible." Molly began to tear up. "You know he flinches whenever anyone touches him?"
"Molly, darling, it could be because he hasn't been exposed to touch very much. I doubt they were the sort to hold him or hug him much through his childhood," Arthur said darkly. He brightened slightly though at the determined look on his wife's face and knew what she was planning.
"You might want to ease him into it, Molly, or he's going to get suspicious."
"I know what I'm doing," she responded distractedly, gesturing toward the tissue box. Arthur handed her one and she dabbed her moist eyes. "I just don't like this, Arthur. Harry's such a sweet boy and it's so unfair. Not only did he live with those absolute manticores, but now he has the whole Order on his back because he was traumatized as a child and has a reasonable fear of cupboards! And he has so much pressure with the war, and then Sirius died and Remus isn't around. The poor thing. Oh, but that family of his, I just want to…urgh!!" Arthur hid a smile as his wife made several violent gestures, destroying the tissue she'd been holding.
"Tomorrow, I'll try talking to him again, and you can do what you want with him," he said seriously.
"We're all he has, Arthur. We can't mess this up."
Arthur kissed her on the forehead. "I know."
It was going to be difficult, and Arthur had no idea how to approach it, but he had to try. Because Molly was right. If they messed this up, he didn't want to think of what would happen to Harry.
A/N: Hope you all enjoyed the first chapter! Please review to let me know how you liked it!