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Lying Low at Lupin's

And now to review the second story by Nym:

Title: "Just Let It Be"
Author: Nym
Format: short story
Universe: Harry Potter
Rating: PG-13
Warning: Implied past slash
Availability: Archived at Nym's website Idiosyncratic Attic.

One of many "lie low at Lupin's" tales exploring the post-Azkaban reunion of Sirius Black and Remus Lupin, "Just Let it Be" stands out from similar stories in several ways. To begin, it offers a portrait of Black that is suitably wounded considering his experience of more than a decade in unthinkable captivity. This Black struggles with the mundane mechanics of sitting in a chair, eating at a table, even bathing. Since Black serves as the first-person narrator, the reader can track clearly his progress toward sanity and stability as he begins to grow stronger in body and in memory. A key to this progress is, of course, Remus Lupin. I find I am particularly intrigued by J.K. Rowling's Lupin, his personality, and his choices. Not many fan fiction authors portray this tragically flawed and yet heroic character in a way I find convincing. Nym, however, captures him in all of his understated power, gentleness, reservation, and isolation. As Black thinks to himself:

God, I was a prick.

Remus was the one who had everything that truly matters. His integrity and optimism. Of all of us, Remus was the one who seemed most content. Maybe that was why I began to suspect him as our traitor; my own arrogance, my own prejudice. How could a man who had nothing be so openly content? How could a man face being spat on and rejected, day after day, and retain that cheery optimism? I can see the answer now. I think I saw it in Azkaban, during some prolonged period of lucid self-awareness. Remus had those things because he's Remus and because he's a better man than I was, or ever could be.


Of course the reader learns as much about Black as Lupin through Black's own tortured thoughts, and discovers that Black always seems to give Lupin the benefit of the doubt while denying himself that same mercy. As in "Hero Worship," Nym does not adopt the easier path where it would not exist. Again, there is miscommunication, and misery, fumbling moments of attempted connection, and painful realizations of all both men have endured in the intervening years.

Yet there is hope. One particularly moving passage involves Black receiving a letter from Harry Potter along with an awkward gift of a clay sculpture made in Harry's childhood. Lupin and Black alternately consider how little support Harry has received from the Dursleys, how Lupin once refused earlier opportunities to be involved with Harry's life, and how unprepared Black is now for assuming his role as godfather. The scene is guardedly optimistic and thoroughly poignant. In the end, we see a glimpse into the world of the walking wounded, one relearning independence and one relearning dependence, both turning to each other to rebuild trust in an otherwise uncertain time. Through these portrayals of Black and Lupin, Nym allows the reader to find heroism in the smallest of actions and fallibility in the finest of heroes. It isn't the defeat of You-Know-Who but, for the moment Nym describes, it is enough.

excerpt:
"You've still got magic hands." My whisper makes him hesitate. "I--I was thinking of how you'd put Harry to sleep when nobody else could," I explain, managing enough precision to spare us both further discomfort. I hope. He relaxes again, starts to massage my shoulders again, and I'm sure he's smiling.

"Oh, boring babies to sleep isn't magic. It's just a gift."

I don't know what to say after that. I'm out of practice with the kind of conversations that friends have. I don't even know if I'm entitled to call myself his friend, after all that's happened. I don't doubt his forgiveness, because he never said what he didn't mean, but I hardly deserve his trust. Not the sort that really matters, the sort that makes talking about small things easy.

"I'm not very well, Remus." It's only the big things that matter, anyway.

"No." He's completely still, then, his hands just resting at the curve of my shoulders. I can feel him breathing. "You're not."

"Promise you'll say if you want me to leave?"

"I promise." He has to be the only one of us, the fine four friends, who never made a promise he wouldn't keep. Why didn't I think of that, when I was selling James the poison from my heart?