Chapter 11 : Creature of the Afterlife
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And another MASSIVE thank you to those of you who nominated this story for the Ultimate Ship-Off Competition at the forums in the Best Unusual/AU category! I honestly can't tell you how much that means to me! But most certainly, Ignotus/Dominique is a pretty unusual ship! :P
Thank you so much, and here's the next chapter!
stunning chapter image by Modthryth
Only a short while later Ignotus had to give his heart-wrenching goodbye to his nephew. Tyrion had begged his uncle to not leave him behind, to not leave him with people he had only just met. With his heart breaking, Ignotus had to whisper to his nephew that everything would be fine, that he and Cadmus would visit soon, all the while telling the deepest lies Ignotus had ever divulged. He had even fought back tears during his goodbye to his nephew, but he knew he couldn't cry. Tyrion didn't believe there to be any reason to cry, and he wouldn't have himself cry in front of Brigid or her father. He had to show courage to the Pellinors, and to Tyrion, he had to appear happy. As if nothing was the matter, as if Cadmus Peverell wasn't lying dead on his bed back in Godric's Hollow.
He had then departed with a bow to the Pellinors and a hug to Tyrion, sending him to Brigid's side. Then he was mounting his horse and riding out of Wiltshire.
Perhaps it was knowing that he was lying to his nephew, that the poor boy would never see his father again, that he was leaving behind a sad Tyrion. Perhaps it was their dreadful goodbye, but he didn't know what came over him as he kicked his heels further into his horse's side, urging the creature to run faster, harder, to take him away from the place. When he was so often humbled and sad while in mourning, he felt anger fuel him like it hadn't ever before. The last time he was this angry he had just learned that Antioch died for the pure possession of a wand, for power. Now his second brother was dead, and while Cadmus had taken his own life, the blame was solely on Death's shoulders.
This was all Death's fault. It was Death who took his brothers away from him.
He was angry at Death for his foolish game, for tricking his brothers into accepting its gifts. He was angry at his brothers for not realizing the peculiarity of the situation. He was furious.
As he left the village, the wind making his cloak billow out behind him, his hair pushed back by the wind, his teeth bared, Ignotus rode hard. He rode fast through the valley and across the plain. He didn't know for how long he had ridden for; time meant nothing to him. Only the anger in his heart. The anger of why this had to be.
He didn't stop until he had reached the very valley that had changed his life. The place where the ignorance of his brothers had cost them their lives, the place where the gifts to the Peverells were nothing more than mere forms of mockery from Death. His horse paced back and forth along the edge as Ignotus looked for some sign that Death was there. His heart thumping in his chest, he began to shout.
"I knew you were making fools of us! I knew all along!" he shouted over the valley. "Now tell me why! Tell me why you had to take my brothers from me! We are only wizards! What means do you have to take the lives of anyone who dare cross this valley?! Tell me why!"
There was a quick gush of wind. It lifted his cloak off the back of his horse, toyed with his hair. The leaves that littered the ground rustled, and some fell over into the valley. Ignotus could feel the atmosphere changing. Death had heard him and his response was quickly coming. The weather around him changed. Suddenly the sky darkened and ominous clouds moved across the sky to block out the sunlight, the sky turning a desolate grey. The wind gained speed, and Ignotus was quick to usher his horse away from the edge of the valley.
Then, with a churn of the air that had quickly grown cold, Death appeared before him. He materialized out of thin air and hovered over the valley he so desperately loved to claim the lives of the innocent in. Like he had appeared the first time, he was hooded and cloaked in the odd black, fraying material. Death lifted his arms, and his long fingers of pure bone interlaced with one another in front of his form. His cool and knowing laugh echoed from beneath the hood.
"Ignotus Peverell," greeted Death knowingly.
"Tell me why!" Ignotus demanded to know. He hadn't even noticed when his cheeks had grown damp of his hot tears, but they were steadily streaming down his wind-burnt cheeks.
"This valley is my territory. No soul has ever survived its crossing. Why should a mere wizard be any different? I claimed their lives because they should have perished in your crossing," said Death.
Ignotus bared his teeth. "You congratulated us! You played us for fools! Why not destroy the bridge from beneath our very feet instead of using such trickery?!"
"My dear Ignotus!" Death laughed. It was a loud, booming, and cruel sound. Ignotus knew Death was mocking him, thinking him stupid and a fool. "I do nothing but claim the lives of those who have reached their time and see them to the other side. I am a creature of the afterlife, and I am a creature of habit. I do not enjoy disruption or change. But when I am disturbed from my habitual existence - such as your foolish bridge crossing incident - I like change it up. Call it revenge if you will."
"You and your hateful games!" snarled Ignotus. "I have lost two of the people who are most dear to me because of you and your nefarious games! Have you no kindness in your heart?! You could not have simply instructed us to turn back?!"
"Kindness in my heart?" Death asked with a burst of laughter. "I have no heart, Ignotus Peverell. I am Death itself. Where was the fun in telling the three of you to turn back? The time of the two elder Peverells was upon them. I am Death; I know all that has come to pass and all that shall ever be. Antioch had run his course; he lived a pointless life other than starting bar fights. If Antioch had lived another year, do you know what he would have done, dear Ignotus? No, you do not. Antioch would have continued his quarrels with Gannon, and they would have escalated beyond your imagination. Gannon would have left Godric's Hollow to gather forces, and he would have marched upon Godric's Hollow and burnt every home to the ground and seen every man, woman, and child slaughtered. Antioch Peverell would have led Godric's Hollow to war in another year's time! And Cadmus on the other hand. Cadmus' existence reached its fulfillment nine years ago when Tyrion Peverell was fathered. I was more than generous in giving them the time that they had. You should be grateful for the years you spent with them, and you should also be wary that I can take your life from you in a matter of seconds, boy!"
"Then take it!" dared Ignotus. "If I was only a piece to your games for so long, then end this game now and take my life!"
Death laughed again and shook his cloaked head. "Oh, such a sacrifice would make things all too easy. And you knew from the very beginning, Ignotus Peverell, that I was one with tricks up my sleeve! You knew! You knew and yet you said nothing. You should have spoken up; you should have voiced your fear. Perhaps they would have listened to you. Perhaps, and they would still be alive. You are as much to blame for the death of your brothers as I am."
"NO!" cried out Ignotus in pain. The thought had long ago crossed his mind, but he refused to think it. He had forced it from his mind; he wouldn't allow himself to be the object of blame. "Their deaths are not my fault! They would never have listened to me! I am NOT the one to blame!"
"Do NOT quarrel with me, boy! We are killers. You and I. We killed your brothers. Together. And you do not even have to ask who is next to die," snarled Death.
Ignotus drew in a sharp breath of air. He knew Death's meaning. He was next. He could feel his heart jump into his throat, and he knew in that moment that his encounter with Death had to come to an end. Just as he began to tug on the reigns of his horse, he felt the ground begin to quake beneath him. He looked to it in confusion and shock, and he knew he hadn't imagined it. The ground was moving.
He yanked harshly on the reigns, demanding his horse step back away from the valley's edge. Just as the horse reared back, the ground fell out from beneath them. Chunks of rock, grass, and earth fell out from the surface and went crashing down into the valley. As the width of the valley expanded, Ignotus and his horse bolted away from the edge until the ground was solid beneath them. Panting, Ignotus looked back to where Death hovered, still hovering over the valley and still as ever.
He knew what Death had just done. He had already made an attempt on his life, and he had tried to kill him by bringing him down in the valley in which this all began.
"I will not be a part of your games!" snarled Ignotus harshly in a tone he had never known himself to have. He had never felt such hatred toward something.
With his last statement, he tugged on the reigns and kicked his heels into his horse's side, demanding him to ride away from the valley and leave Death behind. As his horse began to run at full speed, kicking up the earth beneath its hooves, the cool voice of Death rang in Ignotus' ears.
"You cannot hide from me!" Death raged. "You are mine, Ignotus Peverell! You have been ever since you were foolish enough to join my games!"
As Ignotus rode away from him, the wind picked up once more, and now with it came loud claps of thunder. Rain began to pour, and bolts of lightning flashed against the sky. Ignotus gave a shout when a bolt struck the grass not only feet from him and set the grass ablaze. The blast, white and blinding, the sound of it painful and eradicating, terrified the creature beneath him. His horse reared up on his hind legs, neighing in fright, and Ignotus was thrown from the back of the creature.
The horse continued to rear up in fright as the flames grew with life. Ignotus struck the ground with great force on his back, temporarily rendering him immobile from the impact. He lay gasping for many moments, begging for the air to enter his lungs, and when it did, he pulled himself to his feet and approached his horse. He raised his hands, attempting to seize the reigns as he horse towered over him.
"Easy! Easy!" said Ignotus loudly enough to catch the horseís attention. "Woah, Caspian."
When he had calmed the horse enough to keep him from rearing up once more, Ignotus mounted Caspian and kicked his heels into the horse's side again. He could feel Caspian struggling to go against his will as he led the horse closer to the flames, but with another kick into the horse's side, Caspian gained speed and they leaped over the flames.
With his heart beating away within his chest and his fear reborn, he looked over his shoulder to the valley and the fire. Still towering over the flames colliding with the rain, Death remained ever still until finally Ignotus watched Death disappear from view, taking the fire with him but not the rain.
Ignotus turned back to the path before him and was racing towards Godric's Hollow at full speed. The rain continued to beat at his back, but Ignotus could feel his fear beginning to diminish when he noticed how the wind had lessened and the deafening claps of thunder and blinding bursts of lightning had faded. Now it was just the rain. He found himself able to breathe again just as he was reaching Godric's Hollow. He only slowed down from his fast pace when he was turning the corner to arrive at his house.
He led Caspian to the stables where he removed the horse's saddle and littered the ground with the horse's food. Only then after he had finished his busy work did he allow himself to relax. He slouched against the creature's side as he grazed. He closed his eyes against Caspian's side, the horse's brown coat smooth against his cheek. He patted Caspian adoringly and found himself talking to the creature. "You are a fine horse, you know that, Caspian. Never have you failed me. I am sorry for the events at the valley."
After minutes passed, he finally stood up straight and gave a good-bye pat to the horse. Ignotus strolled out into the rain, feeling his body and muscles responding weakly and lethargically to his actions after such a fright. He could feel his back and bones aching when he had been thrown off of Caspian. He rubbed his lower back with a grunt.
He found that he wasn't ready to go inside. Not yet. Inside he would have to face his mother; he would have to face duty and bravery once more, and he wasn't ready for that. He needed a moment to himself, a moment to recuperate.
Before he had even reached the gate to his home, he found himself collapsing onto the muddy ground outside as the rain continued to fall. He let it drench his coat, the knees of his trousers now covered in mud. He sighed heavily, closing his eyes to the world around him and letting drops of rain fall from his eyelashes.
He gave a terrified start when he felt the gentle brush of something against his chin. He yelped in surprise and scrambled back, whipping out his wand as his eyes flew open, his first thought going to Death and his next attempt.
"Hey, hey, hey," a consoling voice said quickly. "It's just me. I'm sorry if I scared you. It's just me. Dominique."
His shoulders dropped in relief, and he dropped his wand into the pile of mud beside him. He looked to Dominique before him, wearing the same green dress he had seen her in earlier that day. She hadn't even cloaked herself before coming out into the rain, and her dress was already a shade darker from the water, and her hair clung to her neck and forehead with the water. She knelt in front of him, letting her dress become coated in mud.
"Ignotus," she whispered encouragingly, "what happened?"
He shook his head. How was he even to begin explaining? How could he tell her he was torn apart by lying to his nephew, by leaving him with the Pellinors? How could he tell her he was tormented by the idea of marrying the strikingly enticing Lady Brigid when he knew he was falling in love with her? How could he tell her that he had for once been fueled by anger and let it get the best of him, and as a result he had confronted Death? How could he tell her Death had tried to kill him and had threatened him? Where to begin?
He was lost, so he spoke of nothing relevant. He looked to Dominique, her beautiful face shaped with worry, her strawberry blonde hair now wet and lying flat, and her green dress muddied. He said weakly to her, "Lady, your dress. It will be ruined."
"That's not important," she whispered, scooting closer to him. "I want to know what has upset you so much."
"I did something foolish," he finally muttered. He let Dominique's gentle fingers continue to stroke his chin, ruffing up his stubbled beard, and he finally lifted his head to hers. He wished he could send away his regret and anger like he sent the water away from his eye lashes as he bat his eyes. "Very foolish."
As he said this, he realized just how true he was being. In his short burst of anger, he had let it get the best of him. Never in his life had he encountered such anger, and as such, he had no idea how to cope with it. Instead of stifling it and coping with it, he had acted rash. He had sought out Death himself to defy him and yell in rage. Death was right; he could take his life away in a matter of seconds. So why had he tried his luck? He was now faced with an inevitable truth: he was next on Death's list.
"What did you do, Ignotus?" she asked gently. Even as he looked at her, she made no move to take her hand away from his chin. Instead, she let her palm rest flush against his cheek and she stroked gently.
With a heavy sigh, his eyes fluttered shut at her touch and he leaned into her warm, small hand. "I went after Death," he said weakly.
"You did what?!" asked Dominique in shock. She made a move to retract her hand as surprise took over her. She went to sit up straight, alert and aware, but Ignotus snatched her hand as she tried to pull it from his cheek. With his grasp on her wrist, he gently willed her palm to return to his cheek. Dominique let out a sigh and went back to stroking it gently; she didn't understand just why but her touch was like a lifeline to him in that moment. He was weak and broken; he needed her touch and reassurance, and she knew in that moment that she couldn't act rashly with him. She had to be the shoulder to lean on that he needed.
"I went to the valley," he said again in a defeated voice. "The valley where my brothers and I made the bridge and Death appeared. I went back, and I asked him why. Why did he take them from me? Why did he have to be so cruel? I shouted and I...I acted rashly."
"Why would you do that?" she asked in shock. "He's Death! And you decided to go and piss him off?"
"I do not know what I was thinking!" he cried out. "I said what I did was foolish!"
"You weren't thinking, Ignotus," she accused. In that moment, she was only thinking of him and keeping him safe. And in order for him to be kept safe successfully, Ignotus couldn't go running around with a death wish. She had told him that Death had made them targets since that day at the valley; he knew that Death would soon be after him, so why had he done such a foolish thing? Now that both the Peverells were dead, she couldn't sit back anymore. Not if Ignotus was close to Death. Perhaps it was her time to intervene; perhaps she would be the one to set the future straight. She had to keep him out of trouble. "I told you! I told you that Death has a price on your head, and you thought it would be a good idea to seek him out? Are you trying to get yourself killed? You can't do that!"
She pulled her hand away from his cheek only to give a push against his chest in frustration. She didn't care about the customs of his time, if a woman should never handle a man in such a way or anything of the sort. She would show her frustration, but mainly, it showed how much she cared in her own way. She had grown too fond of Ignotus to let him run around so recklessly.
Her push sent him from his knees onto his bum. "I was just trying to find out why!"
"Why?" blurted Dominique, and even though she didn't really know why, she began to rant on. "Because he's Death! That's why! Ignotus, you bloody idiot. You can't do that. Now that your brothers are dead, you are next on Death's hit list. You have to be careful! He will try to kill you from now on."
"Then I will die at his hand," Ignotus sharply hissed.
Dominique recoiled in shock. Why did he seem so willing to die? Did he believe that he had truly lost everything? She knew he had lost much, but he still had his mother. He still had Tyrion. He still had her. And hadn't she shown him just the previous night how much he meant to her? Dominique was making no progress in going home, and it was very unlikely that she ever would; she had kissed him the night before and she wasn't going anywhere. Didn't he see that? Didn't he see that she was basically his already? What could she do to express that to him?
That was a conversation for another time, though.
"No," she said sternly. "You can't, and I won't let you."
And she would. She would protect him, no matter what the costs. He couldn't die; not yet. Not until he had fathered the child that would carry on the Peverell bloodline until her uncle Harry would be born. Whether he wanted her or he didn't want her, whether she lived happily ever after with him or he refused her, it was her duty to keep him alive to maintain the balance of the future.
"Dominique," he said, and she was careful to notice how he had left out the term 'my Lady.' He cared very little for formalities at such a time with her. "Nothing can hide me from him. He will find me."
"Ignotus," she sighed in an exasperated manner, "have you already forgotten about the cloak?"
"Of course not," he snarled in malice, not to Dominique specifically but towards the entire situation. Towards Death. "That cloak is what got my brothers and me into this mess. But what more can that do?"
"Oh my gosh, Ignotus," she groaned again at him. "It does more than make you invisible to the eye. It makes you invisible to Death too. He gave you the very thing that can save you from him."
Ignotus didn't know how to interpret this. In a way it was a relief, but what else did it mean? Did it mean he was doomed to live the rest of his life while invisible to everyone around him? Doomed to live the rest of his life invisible and in solitude?
He voiced his ponderings. "But what does that mean? Must I wear the cloak for the rest of my life?"
"I don't know..." she answered, and the fierceness in her voice diminished. She turned to a more gentle approach. "Please, Ignotus. You have to be careful now."
He said nothing. Instead he remained still, sitting in the pile of mud Dominique had knocked him into, his purple cloak turning a dirty brown, his hair lying more and more flat by the second as it framed his face with the rain. He shook his head in sadness. "If I had known just how much that day would affect our lives..." he moaned.
"It's history, Ignotus," she soothed, and she moved closer to him, sliding along the mud and placing a hand on his knee. She squeezed lovingly. "There's nothing you can do about it now."
He nodded and was silent for many moments. Finally he said before pulling himself from the mud. "I will be careful."
As he rose, he turned to Dominique and offered her his aide. She took his hand and let him pull her to her feet, but after that, he dropped her hand and turned abruptly from her, heading towards the house. Dominique watched him go with a somber expression and her arms folded across her chest.
He may have given her his word, but he had done nothing to fully convince her. She didn't know why she had the sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach that Ignotus' life would soon be at risk during every waking moment he wasn't wearing that cloak.
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