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Chapter 13 : A Proposal.
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"Is there anything else I can get for you?" asked Dominique as she walked to Ignotus.
She ringed her hands together as Ignotus prepared leave for his hunting trip with Callum and Edmund. She didn't know why she found herself slightly on-edge for him to be leaving. It had been her suggestion to Callum, after all. She knew Ignotus needed a get away with his closest friends, but Dominique believed she was slightly apprehensive over Ignotus' safety. She had told him he was a risk now. He remembered their conversation in the rain just as well as she did. He knew his life was constantly a threat now, but they hadn't made any notable changes to their living situation.
If she remembered the story correctly, didn't the story state that Ignotus lived his life under the cloak after the deaths of his brothers to keep himself hidden from Death? She recalled that he shed the cloak after he lived a full life, when he was ready for Death, and greeted him as an old friend.
So when would Ignotus be prudent and begin to use the cloak?
It made her uneasy. She had tried to push the subject further, but he seemed reluctant to do so.
Ignotus chuckled as he tied his cloak about his neck, shaking his head at her. When he finished tying the cloak, he closed the gap between them and gingerly touched Dominique's elbows, holding her at armís length.
"My Lady," he sighed, "no. You have done enough. Thank you for your help."
She nodded, tucking a strand of her strawberry blonde hair behind her ear. Finally she blurted the question that had been eating at her. "You did pack the cloak, right?"
Ignotus sighed at the reminder once more. Would he never be able to forget about that dreadful mistake he and his brothers made? It seemed not.
But he hadn't packed the cloak. He didn't want to risk losing it or risk Edmund or Callum finding it and discovering his abilities.
He wanted to lie. He wanted to tell Dominique that yes, he had packed the cloak and that it was safe in his bag, but he was never a very good liar. He bit his lip after his sigh, his eyes downcast. Dominique could read him immediately, something she was becoming spectacularly good at, Ignotus realized. She huffed in exasperation at him. "Ignotus!" she complained. She felt like a mother scolding a child. "What did I tell you? You have to keep it with you now! Just as a precaution, at least."
"That cloak is too powerful to risk being found," Ignotus said gently and in a persuasive voice, but he knew he wouldn't win with her. He wasn't particularly trying to win either, though.
As he expected, Dominique would not budge on the matter. She shook her head and stomped off from him. She immediately went to his locked trunk as they stood in his chambers, and she pulled her wand out. She pointed it at the lock. "Alohomora!"
The trunk clicked open, and she dropped to her knees, shuffling through the trunk's random contents until she found the cloak buried beneath his things. She shoved it into the bag slung across his shoulder and scolded him once more. "Please, Ignotus. Keep it with you. Just in case. I can't have you taking risks like that. Please don't be that reckless!"
He gave a defeated smile, admiring her spirit and her obvious care for him. He wanted to kiss her again, right then and there, just as he always desired these days. But he refrained; however, despite his rather strong compulsions, one of his hands still moved from her elbow to her cheek where he stroked her smooth skin gently with his thumb.
"For you, I will refrain from being reckless," he cooed.
At his words, he found that he had rendered Dominique speechless for once. She stood still with her hand on his bag, his on her, and her mouth slightly agape. Ignotus was surprised; Dominique almost always had something to say about everything. He smiled with a feeling of triumph, but Dominique wondered just what he meant by his words and what he was doing to her.
They still had yet to be physical with one another, save for the small exchanges of physical contact such as now. Over the past few weeks, Ignotus had done particularly well in convincing Dominique he hardly had feelings for her at all anymore, but it was times like these when she knew that wasn't true. He had to have feelings for her. He couldn't look at her like that or touch her like that without any deeper emotion. Or if he could, she hoped he wasn't that cruel.
She couldn't read him, and she had given up trying. She was trying to do her best to allow him whatever time he needed to sort out these thoughts. She knew something was holding him back from being with her, and she wasn't sure if she wanted to know the answer, so she refrained from asking. She felt, though, as if it would be reasons such as his mother that kept him from initiating anything further between the two.
It tore her apart, though. To be with him every day. To let him touch her so gently at times, to look at his smile. She knew what was happening to her, but she didn't want to admit it. She was falling, and falling hard. She knew it, but she refused to think it. Not until she knew just exactly Ignotus was doing to her.
It was times like these when he would otherwise seem uninterested - or at least try to seem uninterested - in her and then he would surprise her out of nowhere with loving affection that left her surprised and caught off guard. It was moments like these when she just wanted to forget the world and what was right and wrong and just kiss him.
She cleared her throat, though, and took a step back from him, forcing herself to move away from the temptation.
Ignotus seemed to purse his lips at her step back, but he tried to not think about it and what it may have meant. He opened his mouth to speak, but a knock came from the door. He turned to grant Jocosa entrance. "Come in, Jocosa."
The brown haired woman opened the door to inform her master. "They have arrived, my Lord."
"Thank you," nodded Ignotus and Jocosa excused herself with a curt nod.
Ignotus flashed Dominique a small smile before moving towards the door. He was about to brush past her when Dominique quickly grabbed hold of his wrist.
"Wait," she said in a fast whisper, and her eyes moved to Ignotus.
He paused, looking down to her in curiosity, feeling her touch at the base of his wrist set fire to his skin. He waited patiently for her to say or do whatever it was she had in mind. She bit her bottom lip, seeming to be having an inner-debate. Finally her eyes shifted from his gaze and she only brought herself up on her tip-toes to delicately kiss his cheek.
Ignotus felt his chest seize up as he saw her move to kiss his cheek. He turned his head into her touch, letting his lips gaze her cheek that pressed against his. He could feel the heat of her skin, her warmth, the smoothness, and he found himself almost turning even more so to meet her lips. But he refrained. He couldn't.
Finally Dominique lowered herself, her eyes seeming sad. Ignotus wondered if he had disappointed her. Had she wanted the kiss on the cheek to turn into the very thing he had resisted doing?
"Be safe," she whispered.
"I will," he encouraged, and he allowed himself to embrace her. He turned his face into her hair, plaited and woven into a bun and pinned at the back of her head today. The loose tendrils by her ears tickled his neck. When he pulled away from her, he found himself beginning to rant, his thoughts arising as if from nowhere. "I should not be leaving you alone, should I? I could cancel this trip, if you want. I can stay here with you."
"No, no," she said quickly and dismissed the idea. She only then realized it would be her first time in 1234 without Ignotus by her side or in the same house as her, but she could manage a few days without him. She had adapted perfectly. Surely she wouldn't come in contact with any situations in which she wouldn't know how to act in the span of three days. "I'll be fine. Besides, I have Jocosa and your mother to entertain me. Go. Go and have fun, Ignotus."
"I will try," he chuckled and they made way for the door.
Dominique followed behind Ignotus in silence, and they exited the house. Callum and Edmund were waiting outside, Edmund atop his horse and Callum holding the reigns of his as he stood. Ignotus smiled to his friends and went to untie his horse's reigns from the post. He heaved himself up onto his horse and smiled to her. "We will return in three dayís time," he said encouragingly.
She smiled and nodded.
Ignotus' horse moved back and forth impatiently, ready to be running across the plains again. Ignotus and Edmund turned away from them as if to leave, but they stopped and looked back when they did not hear Callum mounting his horse.
Dominique watched him with interest. He clearly wanted something from her; she could tell that much, but perhaps he didn't want the others to see. She watched Callum jerk his head towards Ignotus, trying to give him a sign. Dominique could see the discomfort in Ignotus' face as he bit his bottom lip and grew pale, but nonetheless, he encouraged his horse to turn around. When his back was to them, Callum took two long strides towards Dominique.
She stood there before him, curious, with her hands clasped in front of her.
He cocked his head to the side, his blonde hair swooping into his vision as he approached her. When he was close to her, that cheeky smile of his reached his lips.
Dominique had seem Callum quite a few times since their day at the archery range together. They were never of great importance - at least they weren't to her - but she had gotten to know Callum. She knew he was a care-free spirit and she got along great with him. Her different demeanor and social norms due to her time period and Callum's lack of desire to use common social graces made a good pair; often enough their actions mirrored the other. They were one and the same. They weren't as formal as others would be, and they were both joyous and carefree, unable to be tied down by proper mannerisms.
"You will miss me while we are gone," he teased.
Dominique chuckled and folded her arms across her chest, shaking her head in an exasperated fashion. He was joking, she knew that much, and she couldn't help but laugh at him.
"I will survive nonetheless, my Lord," she teased in return.
"Very well," he said, and his fake attempt at seeming disappointed did not go unnoticed. He was still grinning when he stroked her elbow, which caught Dominique fairly off guard, but she didn't let her surprise show. Yes, she and Callum were friendly and disregarded the norms when it was acceptable, but he hadn't seen him act so boldly in public. Especially with Ignotus around.
He leaned towards her, and she froze in even further surprise. "But never the less, I shall leave you with a kiss."
And with that, he bent down and gracefully kissed her cheek. His lips were soft and full against the round curve of her cheek. When he pulled away, she did her best to keep from blushing. Yes, she was attracted to Ignotus - not Callum - but she couldn't deny that Callum was a charming man. She couldn't deny how handsome he was, and she knew what a man he was to the women of Godric's Hollow. She saw the women who fawned over him, who tried not to drool when he passed, the ones who giggled and batted their eyelashes excessively when in conversation with him.
He released her and turned to mount his horse.
She took a few steps back from him, preparing to watch the men leave on their trip, and when she did so, she caught sight of Ignotus. He had turned around at some point, and by the look on his face, she could tell he had seen everything. His face had gone white as a sheet and he looked as if he were going to be sick. Dominique immediately felt guilty for letting Callum act in such a way with her, and she felt even guiltier for leading him on when she was with him, but she tried to tell herself that she had no right to be. Ignotus continued to deny the sexual tension between them, so why did he have any right to be jealous or make Dominique feel guilty.
She could feel his eyes on her, and his gaze felt heavy. It wasn't angry, but rather it was sad and full of longing. She diverted her gaze to the ground to avoid making eye contact with him. Callum, however, was completely oblivious to the entire scene, which Dominique found herself to be grateful for.
She wished she was brave enough to look into Ignotus' eyes before he left, for she didn't want such unspoken thoughts to be left up in the air for three days before she would speak to him again. But despite her desires, she didn't find the courage before the men kicked their heels up and set off at a trot to enjoy their hunting trip.
Ignotus looked to Callum as Callum's horse caught up with Caspian. He wrinkled his nose at the sight of Callum's broad smile. "And what the devil was that about, Callum?"
"What?" asked Callum, his mind seemingly elsewhere. His gaze shot to Ignotus and to Edmund, who was looking at him with fascination. "Oh."
"Well?" inquired Edmund, his look hopeful for a story and a smile reaching his face.
Callum bit his lip to hold his tongue. He didn't know what Ignotus would deem appropriate to be said about the woman. Especially with how fond Callum knew Ignotus to be of the woman. Callum saw the way they acted with one another. They had grown close in such a short period of time, but Callum believed that to be expected when they had both lost so much.
Callum was, however, completely and utterly unaware of the true relationship of the two.
"I knew you fancied Lady Dominique, but my!" gasped Edmund in shock and laughed. "You look utterly besotted!"
Ignotus threw Edmund a reproachful look, which went unnoticed to the other men.
Callum chuckled, keeping his eyes on the path before them as they left the coziness of Godric's Hollow.
"If I may speak freely about her, Ignotus?" Callum gingerly suggested. He looked at him hopefully. He knew he had every right to speak as he wished, and even when he didn't, he would normally do so anyway. But this was different with Ignotus. Ignotus was his dear friend, and he didn't want to offend Ignotus with anything he could have said, and with Callum's thoughts - running rampant and excited about Dominique - he knew he wouldn't be able to hold back many details. But they could very well be details Ignotus didn't want to hear; Callum didn't know.
"By all means," muttered Ignotus.
Callum took Ignotus' permission with complete lack of grace and immediately began ranting. "Of course I fancy her! And I am besotted, Edmund; I will not deny it," chuckled Callum quite emphatically.
Callum let out a heavy sigh, his gaze on the sky as if in a whimsical daze. "How could I not be? She is a stunning woman. The way she carries herself with pride and independence. She is not like other women: needy and reliant. Dominique is her own woman, and beautiful! Her hair being that unique color, her blue eyes. And I shall disregard all proper decorum when I say how bloody irresistible she looked in that dress just - "
"All right!" burst Ignotus painfully. He let go of Caspian's reigns long enough to clamp his hands over his ears. Hearing Callum talk of Dominique in such a way and being unable to truly express himself was all too painful. He couldn't take it anymore, and he didn't know how he was supposed to continue doing so.
Callum and Edmund took his outburst all in good fun, though, and they looked to him with fits of jovial laughter.
"Yes, sorry," apologized Callum half-heartedly, his smile ever present. "It must be strange for you to hear Dominique be spoken of in such a way, with her being your ward."
Ignotus tried to nod, despite how wrong he knew Callum to be. However, at his comment, Ignotus was able to better understand how Callum perceived his relationship with Dominique. He realized that Callum spoke of them as if they held a brother/sister relationship. Ignotus felt sick to his stomach again and felt himself pale.
"Yes, strange," admitted Ignotus. It was strange though for the talk to be coming from Callum. He knew how beautiful Dominique was, and he most certainly knew how seductive and tempting she looked in the red dress she had been wearing when they left. He tried not to think about that aspect; instead, he began to speak of her in a protective fashion. As if it wasn't the subject of the conversation that bothered him, but rather the fact that he was protective over her.
"She is my ward. I care for her and look after her. She is important to me," he said kindly, and he decided to throw on a joking comment for good fun. "And I have grown protective over her. Especially when it comes to romanticizers such as yourself, Callum!"
Callum laughed freely. "I am hardly a romanticizer these days, Ignotus, my friend. For Dominique, I would set my romanticizing days aside."
Ignotus pretended as if he didn't hear his last comment and decided to change the subject entirely. Unable to tolerate the talk any longer, Ignotus turned to his two friends with a jesting smile on his face. "Come on! A race to the nearest wood! Loser cleans tonight's dishes!"
He didn't wait for his friends to agree. Instead, his kicked his heels up into Caspian's side and set off at a run. Edmund and Callum were quickly behind him, though, and finally with the wind whipping through his long black hair and his navy cape billowing out behind him, he was able to forget all his troubles. For the first time in a long time.
The men returned home in three daysí time just as they had promised after thoroughly enjoying their hunting trip. All of the men had found themselves having the time of their laugh; they couldn't remember the last time they had spent such a time together, just old friends, sitting by the fire in a wood at night, telling stories, drinking ale, and singing their favorite songs while hunting for game during the hours of daylight.
They entered Godric's Hollow in the early hours of night with their game slung across the backs of their horses. They were silent, as the hour was late and their trip had been exhausting. They reached Ignotus' home, and the other men helped Ignotus to carry the dead game to the back entrance of his home at the kitchens where he would take care of it the following day. He then removed the saddle from his horse and led Caspian into the stables.
With his horse away for the night and nothing left to be done, he turned to his friends. He clapped them each on the shoulder with a genuine smile. "My friends," he sighed. "I thank you for our trip. I cannot express just how much I needed it."
"Of course, Ignotus," Edmund replied and patted his friend's hand. "A man's trip was much needed, but you know that Callum and I are just a few streets over if you ever need something of us."
"I know, and I thank you."
Edmund nodded, and with that, he bid goodbye to his friends. He mounted his horse, gave a wave, and turned from them.
When Edmund's horse had set off down the street, Callum turned to Ignotus, his gaze hopeful and expectant. "Ignotus," he began kindly and humbly, a tone that Ignotus heard all too rarely from Callum, "I wondered if I might have a word."
"Of course, my friend," he replied kindly. He looked to Callum, awaiting whatever it was he wished to speak to him about.
"Perhaps inside...?" Callum pressed again.
Ignotus rolled his shoulders. "Sure," he answered again and turned to lead Callum inside his home.
He wondered what it could possibly be about. Ignotus could tell just by looking at Callum's demeanor that it was a serious matter, but what serious matters came Callum's way? Or even if they were truly serious, which ones did he ever approach with prudence?
They stepped inside the dimly lit home, and soon Jocosa came scurrying to her master's side when she heard them enter the sitting room.
"My Lord," Jocosa said quickly, startled. "I did not hear you arrive. I hope your trip went well. Shall I fetch Lady Dominique?"
"No!" blurted Callum quickly to Jocosa.
Jocosa's mouth clamped shut in surprise, and Ignotus glanced to his friend in shock as well. Clearly embarrassed, Callum cleared his throat and shook his head, looking to the ground and appearing to be humble for speaking out of turn. "S-Sorry," he stumbled over his words. "That was inappropriate of me."
Ignotus did his best to wipe the appalled look from his face, and when he found himself successful, he was able to chuckle as he looked at his friend. He knew he could potentially be worried, but to see Callum so humble, nervous, and embarrassed was not an everyday experience. It was a treat for Ignotus and he would enjoy it while he could. Surely Callum's matter couldn't be all that important, for he was not a man of serious means.
Callum scoffed at Ignotus for laughing at him, but Ignotus turned to Jocosa in dismissal of him. "Very well. Lord Callum clearly says no, so do not inform Lady Dominique. I shall inform her myself when Callum and I have finished our business."
"Yes, my Lord," replied Jocosa as she dropped down into a curtsy. She made way for the door, but stopped at the sound of her master's voice once more.
"Oh, and Jocosa?"
"Yes, my Lord?" she inquired.
"You may retire for the night. Thank you," he said with a smile.
Jocosa returned it, dropping into her curtsy once more before leaving the sitting room and shutting the door behind her.
Once they were alone, Ignotus turned towards the table at the back of the room with a sigh. He grabbed one of the mugs on the tray beside the ale Jocosa had set out earlier for him. He helped himself to a glass, asking Callum if he wanted one as well. Hearing his reply, Ignotus poured him a drink as well and took it to his friend. They sat down opposite one another in the large arm chairs beside the hearth, and while swishing his mug of ale, Ignotus looked to his friend.
"Well?" he inquired. "What is it then, Callum?"
"It has to do with Lady Dominique, my Lord," he replied.
Callum's sudden revert back to formal addresses did not go unnoticed to him. As Ignotus heard him being called 'my Lord' as he had, perhaps only been called once in his life by Callum, Ignotus knew Callum found it to be a truly serious matter. And hearing it was one that had to do with Dominique didn't help either. Having seen his friend kiss her cheek three days ago had made him uneasy, and the combination of Callum's formalities in that moment and the matter having to do with her made him sick to his stomach.
He suddenly didn't want the ale anymore. He set his mug down on the table beside his chair, trying to hide his unease from his face. He looked to Callum, ringing his hands together in his lap like a worried child who might be scolded.
"Go on," encouraged Ignotus. He wished he would just spit it out.
"Yes, I suppose I should just say it," commented Callum under his breath, fretting as he ran his hands through his long, blonde hair. He looked into the fire, his mouth moving subtly as if he was trying to string his thoughts into words. When he was ready, he looked to Ignotus. "My Lord, it pains me to see Lady Dominique with her family gone and no home to ever return to. I know you have given her a happy home here, but family is something that can never be replaced. You and I know that more than anyone."
Ignotus nodded along. Yes, he did know. Ignotus had lost all of his family except for his mother, and he understood Callum to be in a similar situation as him. He was an only child and had lost both of his parents more than a decade a year ago. Ignotus encouraged him even further, wondering when Callum would get to the point.
"And so," resumed Callum, "see, my Lord. I would like to offer her another family to have. A family to start. A family with me. And you know now that I find her absolutely captivating, my Lord, and with no family of her own, I did not know who else to turn to. You are her ward; I believed if I were to ask anyone...it would be you."
"Ask me what, Callum?" Ignotus asked slowly under his breath.
"If I may have your permission to ask the Lady Dominique to marry me."
Jocosa couldn't help but to stay and listen. She had caught Callum's last words as she had bid her master goodnight. At the sound of her friend's name, Jocosa found for once in her life that she couldn't resist the temptation to listen. She had shut the doors just as she heard Dominique's name, and unable to leave with the temptation too great, she had pressed her ear against the wood of the door and listened intently.
She couldn't believe what she was hearing. After having watched Callum with Dominique over the past few weeks, Jocosa knew it was obvious that Callum had grown fond of the woman. Fancied her even. But Jocosa was not ignorant like most women in Godric's Hollow were. Most women were mesmerized by Callum's handsome face and form, and his wit and his charm. They were so mesmerized with him as to be completely oblivious to the fact that, at the same time, he was also Godric's Hollow's most infamous romanticizer.
Despite Jocosa's knowledge of that, one thing was sure: he was different with Dominique than he had been with women in the past. His actions and behavior did seem to go beyond that of simple flirtation to woo the women of lesser values and standards to get himself into their bed. There was something true beneath his interactions with Dominique, and Jocosa couldn't help but believe that Callum was truly sincere in his wishing to marry Dominique.
She found herself stunned. Shocked. She was still with utter bewilderment, and the rest of the world seemed to fade away from her temporarily. She couldn't make out Ignotus' words after Callum's proposal, as her mind was far off somewhere else.
When she was able to pull herself back to her senses, she quickly moved away from the door, worried much time had passed since the last time she had listened and with fear of the men leaving the sitting room.
In any other situation, she would act as if she hadn't heard anything and go to bed for the night. But this was different. This was Dominique. And this was Callum. Dominique was her friend. They had come to an understanding when they were on their own. They were like true friends, sisters even. Jocosa had to tell her.
She picked up the skirts of her brown dress and bolted up the stairs, her smile wide and her brown hair bouncing against her back as she jumped up the stairs. She scurried down the hall, her skirts rustling against the wood, and to Dominique's chambers.
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