Title: And A Star To Steer Her By
Author: [livejournal.com profile] ceredwensirius
Prompt Number: 119 submitted by [livejournal.com profile] tarasinecera
Rating: NC17
Pairing(s): Remus/Sirius, James/Lily, Moody/Shacklebolt, Hestia/Emmeline, Remus/various OMCs
Summary: In which James and Sirius are pirates, Lily runs a brothel, Peter is a sailor, and Remus is a lot of things.
Warnings: (highlight for details): *Minor Character Death, Enslavement, Drug Use, Violence, Language, Sex, Abuse of Authorial License*
Word Count: 21120
Author's Notes: Thank you dear prompter for giving me so much to work with. I enjoyed writing this tremendously and I hope that you enjoy reading it. This is a quasi–historical (heavy on the quasi)and non–magic AU. I borrowed from British naval history and the Golden Age of Sail, but this piece cannot be nailed to any point in history, and I even made up facts when it suited me. This is a love-at-first sight bodice–ripper of sorts and should be taken with a grain (or perhaps a bucket) of salt. Major thanks go to [livejournal.com profile] whitmans_kiss for the fast beta, I honestly don’t know how you do it, and more thanks to my other beta [livejournal.com profile] flaminia_x for pointing out some serious problems and telling me whoa, try that again, please, and final thanks to [livejournal.com profile] toujours_nigel for always giving me your honest opinion and pointing me to the concept of 'mateloge'. Clearly it takes a village to write a fic… or something.
–––––––


I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea–gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow–rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

“Sea–Fever” by John Masefield


–––––––

“No, I won’t allow it – the boy is only ten.”

Remus was in the garden with his mother when angry voices reached them. He stood up and looked over the fence to the porch where his father and a man dressed in the uniform of a naval officer argued. Standing to the rear of the officer were three other men, also in uniform, positioned stiffly beside a large carriage.

“You should have thought about that before you–”

“Please,” said his father. The desperation in his voice made the hair on Remus’ neck stand on end. “Remus is my only son.”

“Remus,” came his mother’s voice, quiet and urgent in his ear. “Remus, run, off to the woods with you, go now!”

“Mother, what is it?”

“Remus, there is no time for explanations. Do as you’re told.”

Remus looked back at his father on the porch and then up to his mother. She gave him a small shove towards the forest that bordered their farmstead.

“There he is!”

Too frightened to look back at his pursuers, Remus ran for all he was worth. The darkness of the forest, usually forbidding and frightening, looked a welcome haven as he tried to make for its shelter.

“Do not let him get away!”

Heavy feet pounded behind him, closer and closer, gaining on him. If only he could make it to the edge of the forest, just to the edge. Once inside there were dozens of places his small body could hide.

“Run! Run! Run!”

It was the sound of the shot that turned his head, slowed him just that little bit. But it was seeing his father sink to his knees that tripped his feet. His mother’s screams were in his ears as a heavy body fell over him, grasping and pulling his arms behind his back.

“That is what happens when you cross Admiral Greyback,” said a voice in his ear, the sound a curling growl, carried on breath that stank of rotted meat.

There was another shot and his mother’s screams were silenced. Remus was pulled roughly to his feet, something blunt pushing hard into his back. As he neared the house he caught sight of her body in the garden. Without thinking, he ran forward and fell beside her.

“Get him up!”

Remus, clinging to his mother‘s corpse, was wrenched up once again and roughly pulled off.

“Here, give him to me. Clean this mess up. We cannot have been here.”

Remus was thrust toward his parents’ murderer. The man caught his arm and yanked hard, pulling Remus close enough to smell the tobacco and whiskey on his breath.

“Never forget this, boy,” he said. “This is what happens when you cross an officer in the British Navy.” Remus couldn’t speak, paralyzed by fear and grief. He looked up into the grizzled, lupine features of his captor and nodded.

The admiral pulled open the door to the carriage and shoved Remus in. He scrambled across the coach‘s wide flat seat to the other side, burrowing himself into the farthest corner, willing himself not to cry, not to give this man the satisfaction of seeing his weakness. Before following Remus in, the admiral barked out orders to his men, demanding they liven their steps. Remus, terrified and alone, tried not to think about what the men were doing.

When the task was completed, the other officers followed their commander into the coach, their rough voices and foul stench foreign to Remus who had only known love and happiness, a clean home and gentle treatment. As the coach took off, Remus tried to block out their taunts and jeers, watching out the window as the farmstead grew smaller and smaller with distance.

He was never again to see his childhood home.




Ten years later…


"You think what you like, but I say the admiral has lost favor with the King. It is dangerous, what he does, and now something has gone horribly wrong, we all know it. His carelessness will see every one of us hanging from the gallows. We are not on course; not keeping to schedule. If there was an official change of our orders we would know something! We are not supposed to be in these waters. The Crown keeps those dogs on a leash to deal with the Spanish so that they can officially-"

"Keep your bloody voice down! I am not meeting with the lash again for your wagging tongue."

"The Lieutenant is correct, I fear. We are headed for trouble, every one of us, and make no mistake."

"What do you suggest we do? Mutiny? Hanging would be a mercy compared to what he would do to us."

The furtive, whispered conversation floated up to Remus, knuckles white and fingers gripping tight on the rigging to which he clung, willing himself still and silent. It would be dangerous for him to get caught trying to cover his shoddy workmanship. His only hope lay in silence and the cloaking darkness. It had been his duty to make repairs in the sail, but fear and shaking hands do not make for clever fingers. He had noticed the mistake, obsessive in his checking and rechecking to avoid the lash, which was why he was currently stuck half–way up the mast of the middle sail. It was only a minor error in his patching, but would draw attention from the admiral whose sharp eyes never missed a single fault, and never wasted an opportunity to make an example.

The atmosphere aboard the Loup Garou did not encourage camaraderie among the crew. Spying on your brother, reporting on his failings so that he, not you, fell to the lash, prevented anything like friendship growing between crewmembers. Only one young man close to Remus’ own age, Peter Pettigrew, was someone Remus thought of as a friend. But even so, the distrust bred onboard prevented them from becoming anymore than casually friendly. It was something, however, and Remus, lonely and much abused, clung to it, meager though it was.

The nature of the conversation unfolding below him was hardly a rarity of late, though this was the first time he had overheard officers engaged in what he would have normally chalked up to galley gossip. It was true enough that the crew had been mumbling for months, the cruelty of the admiral becoming ever harsher. That, in and of itself, was hardly more than what he was accustomed to. It was the darker, quieter, more careful whisperings that were troubling. These officers had gathered in the dead of night to whisper about goings on with only one or two crewman on deck to observe them. They had positioned themselves carefully, with only Remus in a position to hear, and only because he was somewhere he was not supposed to be.

They scarcely dared to name their fear; the admiral's obsession with pressing young boys into His Majesty's service, too young by all accounts and the decree of law. It was clear to Remus that these young officers feared the admiral and his crew had caught the Court's attention.

He did not think on his own experience very often, the home and life of an innocent farm boy left behind because the fates were cruel and the admiral crueler still. In the first few years, only a handful had joined his ranks, their rights and humanity stripped away and forced into a life that was barbaric at best. Some died, usually soon after coming onboard. Those that did not, like Remus, sometimes wished they had. It was a monstrous existence – the brutality and harsh living conditions aboard the Loup Garou. That was, of course, not the frigate’s actual name, but it was what the admiral preferred, using his own moniker for the hulking gunship.

In recent years, however, the last six months in particular, the number of young boys had tripled. There could be no explanation that would make sense to any reasonable man, though Remus had his suspicions. His own father, he had learned from the gloating beast of a man, had done the admiral an offence. What offence, Remus never learned, but he suspected the story played out much the same over and over in these sad, little lives.

Then, a month ago, the admiral and his senior officers, all of whom were loyal and well treated, had returned to the ship with another young boy, but on this occasion it was clear something had gone terribly young. The boy, Remus had noted on the one glimpse he had caught, was a beautiful young man. Older than most of the others usually taken, his aristocratic features and dark ebony locks were striking and out of place with the extensive wounds, evident from the blood leaking through his rich clothes.

For all that he was pretty, he was not strong, or too badly injured, and had passed shortly after arriving on board. Since then, they had set sail for the warm waters of the Caribbean, which, as far as every member of the crew was aware, had been deemed off limits to His Majesty's fleet. Rations had begun to run low and even spoil, tempers were on the rise, and the control the admiral usually enjoyed had been slipping from his grasp.

There was a noise, just then, as Remus swung and the officers fretted. A crewman – Remus couldn’t him identify from this distance – had come up to relieve the current watch. A moment later the bell rang and it was apparently more than the nervous officers could tolerate. They left, each going in a separate direction, all eventually finding their way back down to quarters. Once he was sure he was alone, Remus completed his work and scurried back down and to bed.

*

The following morning was met with a dense fog that had rolled in across the eerily still waters. Remus had never quite turned into a fine sailor, rather he had turned into a sailor who was good at keeping his head down, good at not getting noticed. The only thing he was any good at was reading their position, feeling the current that fought against the sails for control of the ship. Remus always knew their position from the physical clues in the ship and the stars in the heavens, even though navigation and steering were the arts of an officer, not a lowly ship hand that couldn’t even patch a sail without error. The fog spooked some of the other crew, whispering nonsense about it being a “devil’s cloak” and old superstitions about sailing off the end of the world.

One of Remus’ pleasures from another life had been reading. He had once loved adventure stories about men like Columbus who had believed the world was round. His father had owned one much revered map of the known world that he would occasionally take out and let his dreamer son fawn over. Those dreams were all dead now, and Remus had since learned that much of that map was hopelessly dated. That hadn’t stopped him from learning to correctly guess the ship’s position. He had listened carefully to the officers, and while he might be an utter sailing misery in most other respects, Remus knew navigation.

Not that this helped him any. It was mostly something he learned for its own sake to occupy his keen and curious mind and make life a little more bearable. The fact was, he was horrible at what was expected of him. As a result he had found other ways, other things he was good at, to offset his rather obvious lack in the sailing arts. It was a quiet and clandestine thing, a thing that was never discussed, only conducted in secret and then forgotten until it was time to do it again. Growing up around men, having nothing but men for company, Remus had discovered he had a taste for them.

The other men were not so inclined, but months, sometimes years at sea, years away from women, they had learned to make do. Remus had learned that even though most of them did so, not one of them wanted the others to know about it. This then, became his leverage, kept him safe. He never thought about it, never focused on what it was for them, which was nothing more than a release. If he had, he would have felt shameful and dirty. He knew what the scriptures had to say on the subject, knew that the ships chaplain would have seen him punished for his iniquity, but Remus was quiet, and the men were quiet, and in exchange, his mistakes were covered for him when possible.

So that morning, the world had awoken to a quiet sea covered in thick, gloomy fog, and Remus was buying a little insurance on his knees. The Loup Garou had a multitude of dark, quiet spaces and in such a space, with a cock pressing into the back of his throat, the warning bells started to clang just as his throat filled with semen.

Both he and the other sailor stilled, and Remus had to concentrate not to bite down in his shock. He swallowed the last remnants in his mouth as they rushed to straighten themselves, neither looking at each other.

When Remus emerged on deck, the fog had not yet lifted but the sea was still calm and there was trouble. Surrounding the Loup Garou was a fleet of sloops, the swift, maneuverable craft he had heard were preferred by pirates. Though light in their construction, the sloops were not without guns, and all doors were opened, cannons bared like dogs showing their teeth. It was a siege and Remus felt a wave of panic the likes of which he hadn’t experienced since he was ten years old.

Every ship surrounding them had colors raised, each a variation on the skull with crossed bones, communicating that surrender would be accepted. All of them but one, that is, the ship closest to the Loup Garou. That ship had a field of pure red blowing lightly on the wind – no quarter.

On the deck of each pirate craft stood approximately three dozen men, each dressed differently, though a variation on a theme. Most were clad similarly to himself; canvas doublets in varying dull shades of dirty over linen shirts, breeches ragged at the hem, and motley–hued knitted caps, the typical dress of those press ganged into naval service. Some, like himself, also wore stockings, and shoes, though most were barefoot. Unlike Remus, they each had a sword, drawn and at the ready.

Had these men also been taken from their homes and then escaped to become pirates? Remus couldn’t think of anything bleaker. He hadn’t touched dry land in more than five years. If he ever got out of service, he would never again set foot on a craft of any variety. His early fascination with adventure had been all but stamped out in servitude to the admiral.

Not all of them were so plainly clad in slops, though. There were a few very notable exceptions. One in particular, a towering, grinning, black–haired beauty of a man, standing proudly on the deck of the ship with the red flag, was dressed so flamboyantly that the only word that came to mind was peacock. Remus had seen one once – a peacock, the bird itself – while providing safe passage for a merchant ship running a route between England and India. The poor thing had escaped the hold and fluttered aboard the deck of the merchant ship, its call eerily reminiscent of a child crying.

“Ahoy, there,” called out the peacock pirate. “Beautiful morning for it.”

There was a rumble of mirthless laughter from the surrounding ships. The peacock stepped closer to the railing and jumped onto a barrel, his high–booted feet landing with a thud, a length of rope that was tied to the mast in one hand.

Remus had never seen someone so colorful in all his life, and yet, despite that, the man exuded a power and an authority that literally caught the breath in his throat. From the three–cornered hat on his head, quivered an enormous red ostrich feather, his every move caused it to dance and sway. His waistcoat and sash were a match for the feather, bright red, a color reserved for upper classes. It wasn’t difficult to believe that this man was aristocracy, and even more surprising was the resemblance he bore to the young man who had died on board only a month prior.

Admiral Greyback stepped forward, a deep scowl marring his already unpleasant features. This only seemed to make the peacock grin all the more.

“Stand down,” snarled Greyback. “You are halting the business of a ship in His Majesty’s service.”

“Yeah, about that,” said another voice, this one from behind Remus. He turned, along with every other member of the crew. The speaker was another one of the more elaborately dressed pirates, also in fine materials and deep reds. “You see, His Majesty doesn’t actually want his ship harmed. I’m sure you can see the position this puts us in.”

“What my esteemed colleague Captain Potter is trying to say, is that the problem here isn’t so much with the ship as it is with you.”

“This is preposterous!” spluttered the admiral. “I am an admiral in His Majesty’s service!”

“Were,” said the peacock, his words clipped and exact. “The word you are looking for is were.”

“What this means for the rest of you, is that if you surrender peacefully, you will be given safe passage to Port Royal,” said yet another voice from a different ship. This one stumped forward on a wooden leg, and was the most grizzled looking sight Remus had ever seen. The man wore a patch over one eye, more of that high–class red, and a piece of his nose was missing.

“From there you will be sorted, and if possible, returned to your families.” The man was tall and African, dressed in clothes that Remus had never seen, the beautiful patterns intriguing. He came up behind the patch–eyed pirate and lay a large, dark hand on his shoulder.

“But as for you,” said the peacock, addressing the admiral. “You will not be quite so lucky. Been a naughty boy, haven’t you Greyback? Stealing children and forcing them to work on your dinghy. Pressing men to serve you is bad enough, but the law is clear – no one under the age of fifteen and absolutely no one in the aristocracy. Which reminds me, you have something that belongs to me, and I’ll be taking it back. Now.”

“Of yours?” The admiral stepped back, and Remus swore that the man had lost two whole shades of color.

“My brother,” said the peacock. “The young man you took before you unwisely set sail for these waters.”

“Oh, god,” said Remus. He hadn’t meant to, but it was horrific to learn this way. In the past moments, his mind had been changing about pirates. He’d not known some worked in the service of the Crown. For his utterance, the admiral, likely scared for more than just his life, strode toward Remus and struck him down with a blow to the jaw.

The peacock used the distraction to swing across on the rope and board the ship. Remus looked up in time to see him press the muzzle of a pistol to the admiral’s forehead and cock the trigger.

“Where. Is. My. Brother.”

There was silence on the deck. Not a single member of the crew moved to help the admiral, but none seemed willing to tell him what happened to his brother either.

“I’m sorry,” whispered Remus, finally, unable to bear the tension any longer. “I’m so sorry.”

Remus recognized the look of anguish, of grief that crossed the peacock’s face. In the next moment it was replaced with a look of such terrifying cruelty that Remus had to look away. No one that beautiful should ever look so ugly.

“You don’t deserve what I’m about to give to you,” said the peacock. Remus was chilled by the deadly calm in his voice, and imagined that the man was fantasizing about many long and drawn out tortures. And then the gun went off and the admiral fell lifeless to the deck of his own ship.

Merciful, Remus thought, because he could well understand the desire to make Greyback pay with his flesh. Too merciful, really, followed close behind as a day some ten years prior came flooding back. A day when everything changed, and life as he knew it was effectively at an end.

Before he could rise to his feet, the ship was flooded with pirates swinging over; two men from the other ships lifted him up and then shoved him against the railing of the Loup Garou, a long curved knife held against his throat. Remus wondered about the words guaranteeing safety that had been spoken, and whether that was just a pirate’s lie.

He wasn’t the only one subdued. Every one of his fellow crewmen had a pair of pirates on them. The peacock strolled onto the center of the deck in the midst of the flurry of movement. Out of his red waistcoat, he withdrew a letter, unrolled it, and held it high.

“I am Sirius Black, Captain of the Silver Veil, and a privateer in His Majesty’s service. If you come peacefully, you will not be harmed. In my hand is a letter from the King himself ordering the execution at sea of this bilge–sucking filth. I am required to request a member of the Phoenix Rising to read this aloud to the crew. Does any one of you know your letters?”

It took Remus a whole minute to realize that Captain Black was referring to the christened name of the Loup Garou, so long had it been since he had heard it.

“I do, I read,” said First Mate Rosier.

Captain Potter, his own sword currently pressed to Rosier’s neck, laughed at the idea.

“Captain Black, I suggest we ask for one who is not a senior officer to step forward.”

“Do you think it likely there is a crewman who can read?” asked Captain Black, swaggering around on the deck of the ship as though it were his.

Remus cleared his throat. “I read, or did, when I was a boy.”

Captain Black turned to him, giving him a careful once over, and then stepped closer.

“How old were you when they took you?” he asked quietly.

A terrible heat flooded Remus’ face as he realized it was his clothes that gave his status away. He felt horribly exposed that Black could see so easily into his past.

“I was ten,” he replied, looking anywhere other than Black’s face.

“Release him,” said Captain Black to the two men holding Remus. They immediately stepped away, freeing his wrists from their tight grip, and his throat from the too–close blade. The captain took a step closer, and regarded Remus with a quiet solemnity. “I’m sorry for that; this monster should never have touched any of you.”

Remus was caught off guard by the sincerity and the change in the captain’s demeanor. It was awkward having the man this close. The word beautiful was far too pale a descriptor.

“The letter,” he blurted, holding his hand out.

“Of course.” The letter was pressed into his hand and then the captain stepped away. Irrationally, Remus wanted to pull him back. It was too late, and they were too exposed, not to mention he had no idea how this man would respond. While Remus unrolled the letter, Captain Black addressed the crew, ordering them to listen to His Majesty’s edict.

It had been many years since Remus had seen the printed word. So he began, haltingly at first, those few words he remembered coming easily, those he had forgotten much slower. The effort of reading, of remembering how to read, brought back memories of lessons with his mother. He struggled with those memories, now bittersweet, and lessons of consonants and vowels and sounding words out. His first few sentences, spoken with a shaky voice, came slow and labored.

Then, quite unexpectedly, it all clicked into place, like turning a key in a lock and opening a door. His voice grew louder and clearer with confidence. As Remus read to the crew, he learned that Regulus Black, the boy who had died, was a cousin to the King. Taking him had been considered an act of treason, punishable by death. Rumors of Greyback’s activities had been ongoing for years, but he had not been caught in the act until now. The King promised safe passage for those who wished to return to England, and that the Crown would do all it could to reunite families.

“You’re nobility,” he said to Captain Black, stunned with this piece of information.

“At least I’m not heir to the Crown,” came the response with a grin, then added louder, “And just how much do I care about all that, lads?”

There was a round of laughter with a few colorful phrases thrown in for good measure. The captain gave Remus a smile and stepped closer once again.

“My father was the Earl of Suffolk, a title that now falls to me, but what could lure me back to dry land when I have all of the sea to explore?”

“Of course, sir,” said Remus respectfully, but without the captain’s enthusiasm. “I suppose some would think so.”

Disbelief clouded the captain’s face for a moment, and then he turned away from Remus to his co–conspirator Captain Potter. “We’re three days sailing from Port Royal. We need to check their hold, see to their supplies. The whole lot of them look to be underfed.”

“I wouldn’t bother checking,” murmured Remus. “What is left is full of maggots. We only eat once a day, and only at night so we don’t have to see what we put in our mouths.”

“The sea,” said Captain Black, turning back to Remus, “she’s a hard mistress, but she offers freedom and a life you could never have anywhere else.”

“There was a time I might have agreed,” said Remus quietly, “but I‘ve long since abandoned such romantic notions.”

Captain Black looked like there was something he wanted to say, his lips parted and he made a small sound, eyes apologetic. Then he abruptly turned and started barking orders to get food from the other ships brought over.

*

That night Remus ate better than he had in months. Wine and bread and fresh turtle flesh among his fellow crew mates. The ship was effectively taken over and run by a pirate crew, the senior officers taken to the brig and held under arrest for trial in England.

In his bunk, as the crew settled in the first night of the voyage, he learned that the fog had concealed the pirate ships until it was too late. They had virtually materialized out of nothing which led some of the more superstitious members of the crew to wonder if the pirates practiced black magic or voodoo as detailed in many of the legends.

All Remus could think about as the ship groaned and swayed as she sailed along was that soon he would be on dry land, the earth firmly under his feet. His future was the definition of uncertain, with nothing to return home for. No home, no farm, no family.

The last images in his mind before his consciousness darkened and sleep pulled him under were of the enigmatic Captain Black, standing close, eyes sincere; handsome, strong and sympathetic. A strange warmth Remus hadn’t known in his life held him the whole the night through.

*

A steady wind, warm and thick, blew down across sea, turning the ship on her anchor and waking Remus with the dawn. Breakfast consisted of leftover bread and thinned wine. When he crawled above deck, the borrowed sailors from the other ships were weighing anchor and taking their orders from Captain Black, now back aboard his own ship.

The captain was no longer in his garb from the day before, no red feathers to mark him as a man who enjoyed being noticed. On this morning he donned a simple tunic, open to bare his chest and breeches with no shoes. He wore a wide smile and joked with the men on his ship, while keeping a sharp eye on the business of getting underway.

The crew of the Loup Garou were given menial tasks that resulted in grumbling over being treated as scullery maids. Remus kept his own mouth quiet and went about with his orders. But as the sun rose higher in the sky, the grumbling got louder which eventually broke out into a fight. Both Captains Black and Potter swung over with additional men, though neither of them seemed surprised or overly concerned by this turn of events. Captain Black in particular seemed amused and took the opportunity to address the crew once the squabble was put to rest.

“These waters close to the islands are treacherous, lads; by noon we’ll be following the coast and you’ll be glad you’ve old salts to guide her through. We know you’re good seamen, and those of you not in His Majesty’s service will be invited to stay on, go on the account. Pay close attention, learn these cays and shoals, listen to what my men tell you about these waters. There’s no call to fight over it, but if you just want to, I suggest saving it for the Stag and Doe in Port Royal!”

There was a rumble of laughter from most of the pirates, but Captain Potter took mock offence, swaggering over to Captain Black.

“You’re encouraging a bunch of pent up royal sea dogs to tear up me lass’s pub?” he joked, his good natured grin belying any actual malice.

“I’m encouraging a bunch of pent up royal sea dogs to save their energy for Port Royal, wet their willies, drink too much grog and put more into the coffers of that viperous wench of yours!” replied Black, matching Potter’s grin and tone.

Potter’s smile didn’t flicker as he drew his sword. “Say that again,” he challenged, but it was clear there was no heat to it.

“What?” asked Black, all innocence as he drew his own. “Viperous wench?”

Potter gave no indication that he was going to strike, offered no polite warnings, he simply moved. Black was ready for it though and silver flashed through the air before the sound of metal meeting metal rent the air. Both wore wide smiles, eyes flashing with mirth. Remus looked around him to find the pirates watched on with amusement, giving the two captains a wide berth, though the crew of his own ship, himself included, were unquestionably surprised.

Remus found he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the two men and was grateful he wasn’t the only one gawking. Black was glorious, strong and lithe, possessing a grace a man his size shouldn’t. The fight was clearly more a test of strength and for the sheer exuberance of using their bodies. They chased each other around the deck; first one would have the advantage, and then the other. They fought atop barrels and swung from ropes, their swords clashing as they chased each other up stairs and then down.

When Potter put a rip in Black’s shirt, Remus thought he might kiss the man because Black proceeded to tear it off. If Remus had thought Black was attractive before, seeing his tanned, toned chest and arms on full display erased any doubt. The two seemed oblivious to the crew in their play, and soon even the men on the Loup Garou no longer cared, turning away to complete their tasks, which went unnoticed by Remus until he was nudged lightly in the ribs.

“What?” he snapped, turning to glare at the interrupter. Peter blinked at Remus and then his eyes narrowed into a shrewd appraisal.

“You were staring at Captain Black,” said Peter. “With your mouth hanging open.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Remus, turning back to his task. He could feel the flush of embarrassment crawl up his neck and into his face.

“I thought,” began Peter loudly, then dropped his tone. “I thought that business with the men, I thought that was just – but you actually fancy blokes. You prefer men!”

Remus shoved Peter roughly into a barrel, bringing his face close to the other man’s. “Never say that again!”

“What’s going on here?” asked Captain Potter. His chest was heaving from exertion as he pulled the men apart and looked at each of them in turn. Black stood a pace behind, waiting with his sword still drawn.

“Nothing,” said Remus quickly. “It was nothing, Captain. Just a mild disagreement between friends.”

“Yes,” agreed Peter. “Nothing; it was nothing.” Potter looked between them once more and then shrugged. He turned to Black and the two put their heads together and then began moving among the crew.

The rest of the day passed uneventfully, though neither captain returned to his ship. The two captains spent the day talking to the men, getting to know them, asking them questions about themselves. Remus did his best to avoid Black who made his head dizzy to be around.

He had accepted that he preferred men, though he only had a few examples of women to compare it to. It was something else entirely to have this known and generally accepted. It was also something new in his experience to find a person to be so utterly distracting. He tried to keep his thoughts from straying into areas that were likely forbidden. The man was nobility and a pirate, two things that would keep him from ever having a serious interest in a farm boy who hated the sea. Besides, men like Remus surely ended up alone. In some ways he was glad his parents never lived to see what their son had become.

By the end of the day he was exhausted from having to try and seem unaffected. He knew that the captains had asked after his whereabouts so after dinner he crawled up to the crow’s nest and offered to take over the watch.

He was up there an hour, just watching the other ships, the clouds, the sea. He noticed something on the deck of one of the other ships, and that was the stump–legged captain and the tall African kissing, openly and without shame. It was nothing lewd or overdone, but it clearly wasn’t a secret or something they thought of as shameful. He let himself think about kissing Captain Black – actually kissing, something he had never done.

All of his interchanges with others had been quick and dirty, a suck or a wank or just rubbing together until the other came. They never reciprocated. He was always left hard and needy, taking care of himself once they had left him. But then, what he was guaranteeing didn’t really leave room for something reciprocal.

So he let himself wonder what it would be like to kiss, to feel the other’s mouth against his own, to run his hands through that glorious black mane. He knew it would never happen, but it was a lovely fantasy.

Another hour passed much the same, observing and fantasizing, passing the time until his eyes began to droop. He must have dropped off because someone was tapping his shoulder, ruining a perfectly good dream about Captain Black’s lips on his, tongue in his mouth and a hand that trailed down to–

“Captain Black,” said Remus muzzily, blinking rapidly and trying to appear as though he hadn’t been asleep.

“Well, I see what I’ve heard about you is true,” said the captain. “You’re a lousy sailor.”

Sleep clung stubbornly and Remus had to blink a few more times until his mind cleared enough for him to absorb the accusation. He pressed back against the wood of the crow’s nest, fearful he was about to face some horrible punishment for his carelessness. Captain Black was within his rights to be furious with Remus, but he just seemed amused.

“It’s been a long day,” said Remus after a moment. It was a terrible excuse for such an offence, but he feared what a lie would get him.

“Tired, hm,” said Black, and Remus could see his mouth tilt to a smirk as he spoke. “A whole day of swabbing an already pristine deck, checking for holes in sails that have none, and mending rope that doesn’t need it. Yes, I can see how that would be exhausting.”

There were too many years under the lash, under the oppression of a tyrannical leader for Remus to tell the enigmatic captain to kindly bugger off. That he jested was obvious – why remained elusive. He also couldn’t tell the captain that just being this close to him was testing his resolve not to kiss the man, and that he was tired, exhausted, from battling his reaction the whole damn day.

“Sir,” said Remus, having nothing else to offer.

“You, Mr. Lupin, have been carefully avoiding myself and Captain Potter today, and I think I know why.”

If he was including Potter in that statement, Remus knew bloody well the man didn’t have the first clue.

“And what conclusion did you reach, sir?”

“By all accounts you are a singularly ungifted sailing man. When we couldn’t find you to speak with, we asked around and heard the same thing over and over.”

Remus looked out to the ocean, to the gibbous moon and the silvery light it spilled on dark water. “I think it difficult to excel at what you hate,” he replied finally. “I lost everything, Captain; my home, my family, even myself – some days I don’t know who I am anymore.”

Instead of offering him a pithy reply, or spouting useless platitudes about how it would work out in the end, or even worse, chin up and all of that, the captain watched the moon with Remus, claiming a moment of quiet solidarity. The silence stretched between the two of them, the only sound that of the ship’s soft groans and the waves lapping at her sides. Remus closed his eyes and listened to the sound of Black breathing beside him, and just concentrated on the miracle of his own heart thrumming in his chest.

“What will I do now?” asked Remus, the question more for him than for the captain. “I have nowhere to turn, nothing to return to, and I’ve no desire to stay aboard a ship.”

“There is a woman in Port Royal,” replied Black. “Her name is Lily Evans, she runs the Stag and Doe. Maybe she can help you.”

“The Stag and Doe,” repeated Remus. “Isn’t that the pub you mentioned?”

“Aye, her man is Captain Potter. She’s a good woman and she’s connected to all manner of folk through her establishment. She’ll know who’s looking to hire.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re the only one we couldn’t sort,” said Black. “When we reach port, there’s a frigate come to escort the Phoenix Rising home. You’re welcome to return, but life might be better for you among these islands. It’s a good place to come and forget.”

“Did you come to forget?” asked Remus.

Black’s open expression battened down immediately and Remus felt awful and intrusive when the man had only tried to help and hadn’t pushed him to open up even once. “Sorry, never mind,” he added quickly. Remus cast about wildly for a new topic and then, because he was nervous and because his traitorous mind clung dangerously to thoughts of kissing this man, he blurted, “Let me change the subject and ask you a question. Earlier this evening I saw something curious on one of the other ships. Two men kissed each other openly on deck and none of the men seemed surprised.”

Black relaxed immediately, recovering from the question about himself and gave Remus a small nod. “That would be Moody and Shacklebolt. It’s strange to me, this custom from Tortuga. That’s where they hail; they call it ‘mateloge’ and as far as I can tell it’s nearly the same as marriage.”

“And so they really are together?” asked Remus. “I mean, two men, and no one cares?” It was a liberating thought, that among these rough brigands they would accept something that was so foreign to most civilized men.

“Do you care?” asked Black stiffly. “They’re good men, Mr. Lupin.”

“What? No, I mean, no, it’s that, well, it’s that–” but Remus couldn’t finish his thought.

Black stared at him for a moment, expectantly, waiting for him to continue until a look of comprehension crossed his face. He relaxed again and took a deep breath. “I’d never seen two men kiss before, be affectionate with each other.” He paused and looked back at the moon for a moment. Remus thought he might be done and that he needed to say something, but then Black added quietly, “I’d known I had a taste for both, but… well, I’m a captain. I don’t think my crew would understand – there was a bit of grumbling at first, that the majority had voted to let ‘the sodomites’ join us.”

Remus sensed it was his turn to let Black talk; he could well understand the relief in finding someone like himself, someone else who fancied men, so he stayed quiet and gave the other an encouraging smile and let him collect his thoughts.

“It looks very nice, you know, kissing another man,” Sirius continued. “An equal. Not like a whore who does it for pay – however convincing Lily’s girls may be, they are still in it for the gold. No proper woman would be interested in the likes of us; oh, but to have someone, to share quarters with, to share adventures on the sea with.”

And here Remus’ heart, which had been beating out an ever increasing rhythm, suddenly stopped. It wasn’t he Black was thinking of, but someone to sail with him, a fellow pirate.

“Did you hear what I asked?” said Black, giving his shoulder a tap. “Hey, are you alright?”

“Sorry, just tired. What did you ask?”

“Have you ever kissed a man?” said Sirius, repeating the question he had asked while Remus’ heart was quietly breaking.

“No. I’ve done plenty else, but never kissed,” he replied, and then added morosely, “It does look very nice.”

“Yeah, we heard about that, too.“ Remus was mortified, but he didn’t have long to focus on that. Black cocked his head at Remus, a look of pure, inquisitive wonder on his face. As he leaned in, Remus realized what he was about to do and was shocked at the other man’s boldness, not that he was going to stop him.

“Captain,” breathed Remus, his pulse pounding in his ear. Black’s eyes darted to Remus’ lips and then up to his eyes.

“Sirius,” said the captain, and then, “I just want to know; there’s no harm in it.”

Remus could name quite a few harms, namely the damage that would be done to his poor, reckless heart that fluttered in his chest like a caged bird. How had he fallen so fast for this courageous man, tempting him with his daydreams turned real.

The man was a beautiful, wonderful mess – nobility turned pirate with a taste for men. A taste he didn’t believe he should indulge in because his men might choose to follow someone else as captain. The man was a sanctioned outlaw who had exacted the very revenge Remus had wanted for years, and it was all just so tempting and alluring. In two swift, terrifying days, this man had turned his world inside out, and now he was leaning in for a kiss, and worse, he wasn’t making promises, quite the opposite. He was more trouble than Remus needed and nothing he could refuse.

“Sirius,” said Remus, and it was like a name he should have always known, rolling easily off his tongue.

Apparently, that was all the encouragement Black needed. At first, it was just an innocent press of one mouth to another, tentative and deeply unsure. Even so, Sirius’ lightly chapped lips were wonderfully warm and soft; the crow’s nest rocked back as Remus pressed against Sirius, hands on the other’s neck to hold him steady. He didn’t know what he was doing, having never kissed before, so he just pressed harder and tried not to let Sirius get away, convenient that there was nowhere to go in such a small space. If this was all he would ever get, he was going to make the most of it.

For a moment there was tension in every muscle of Sirius’ body as Remus tried to take control. When it snapped, Remus found himself roughly shoved the other way, the ropes that held the crow’s nest aloft squeaking in agitation.

Sirius kissed the way Remus imagined he would. His mouth was plundered and no quarter given as Sirius’ tongue burned hot and needy and wonderful. Remus let his fingers drop from Sirius’ neck to feel the broad expanse of muscle in the man’s shoulders, then down over wide blades, strong back and ribs. His fingers curled into Sirius’ breeches, pulling him hard against Remus’ body. They rocked together, sliding against one another, bodies mimicking their tongues, until they were fully entwined, a lovely, heady tangle of limbs, grinding hard together through the kiss.

“Oh, merciful Poseidon,” said Sirius, unsteady, trembling, drawing back to breath.

“Sirius,” said Remus carefully, soothing, “It’s all right; look, you’re hard, let me take care of that for you –”

"No, no; I'm fine," said Sirius stiffly, straightening up, attempting to assume his captaincy once more, though the shaking in his hands betrayed him. "Thank you, Mr. Lupin. Good evening."

Remus watched him leave, a hole opening in his heart and swallowing him up.
And A Star To Steer Her By, part two
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