“Okay,” Magnus said. “You wanted to talk to me. So talk.”
Alec looked at him, wide-eyed. They had gone around the side of the church and were standing in a small, winter-burned garden, among leafless hedges. Thick vines covered the stone wall and rusted gate nearby, now so denuded by winter that Alec could see the mundane street through the gaps in the iron door. A stone bench was nearby, its rough surface crusted with ice. “I wanted—What?”
Magnus looked at him darkly, as if he had done something stupid. Alec suspected that he had. His nerves were jangling together like wind chimes, and he had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. The last time he had seen Magnus, the warlock had been walking away from him, vanishing into a disused subway tunnel, getting smaller and smaller until he disappeared. Aku cinta kamu, he’d said to Alec. “I love you,” in Indonesian.
It had given Alec a spark of hope, enough that he’d called Magnus dozens of times, enough to keep him checking his phone, checking the mail, even checking the windows of his room—which seemed strange and empty and unfamiliar without Magnus in it, not his room at all—for magically delivered notes or messages.
And now Magnus was standing in front of him, with his raggedy black hair and slit-pupilled cat eyes, and his voice like dark molasses, and his cool, sharp beautiful face that gave nothing whatsoever away, and Alec felt like he had swallowed glue.
“Wanted to talk to me,” Magnus said. “I assumed that was the meaning of all those phone calls. And why you sent all your stupid friends over to my apartment. Or do you just do that to everyone?”
Alec swallowed against the dryness in his throat and said the first thing that came into his head. “Aren’t you ever going to forgive me?”
“I—” Magnus broke off and looked away, shaking his head. “Alec. I have forgiven you.”
“It doesn’t seem like it. You seem angry.”
When Magnus looked back at him, it was with a gentler expression. “I’m worried about you,” he said. “The attacks on the Institutes. I just heard.”
Alec felt dizzy. Magnus forgave him; Magnus was worried about him. “Did you know we were leaving for Idris?”
“Catarina told me she’d been summoned to make a Portal. I guessed,” Magnus said wryly. “I was a little surprised you hadn’t called or texted to tell me you were going away.”
“You never answer my calls or texts,” said Alec.
“That hasn’t stopped you before.”
“Everyone gives up eventually,” Alec said. “Besides. Jace broke my phone.”
Magnus huffed out a breath of laughter. “Oh, Alexander.”
“What?” Alec asked, honestly puzzled.
“You’re just—You’re so—I really want to kiss you,” Magnus said abruptly, and then shook his head. “See, this is why I haven’t been willing to see you.”
“But you’re here now,” Alec said. He remembered the first time Magnus had ever kissed him, against the wall outside his apartment, and all his bones had turned to liquid and he’d thought, Oh, right, this is what it’s supposed to be like. I get it now. “You could—”
“I can’t,” Magnus said. “It’s not working, it wasn’t working. You have to see that, don’t you?” His hands were on Alec’s shoulders; Alec could feel Magnus’s thumb brush against his neck, over his collar, and his whole body jumped. “Don’t you?” Magnus said, and kissed him.
Alec leaned into the kiss. It was utterly quiet. He heard the crunch of his boots on the snowy ground as he moved forward, Magnus’s hand sliding around to steady the back of his neck, and Magnus tasted like he always did, sweet and bitter and familiar, and Alec parted his lips, to gasp or breathe or breathe Magnus in, but it was too late because Magnus broke away from him with a wrench and stepped backward and it was over.
“What,” Alec said, feeling stunned and strangely diminished. “Magnus, what?”
“I shouldn’t have done that,” Magnus said, all in a rush. He was clearly agitated, in a way Alec had rarely seen him, a flush along his high cheekbones. “I forgive you, but I can’t be with you. I can’t. It doesn’t work. I’m going to live forever, or at least until someone finally kills me, and you’re not, and it’s too much for you to take on—”
“Don’t tell me what’s too much for me,” said Alec with deadly flatness.
Magnus so rarely looked surprised that the expression seemed almost foreign on his face. “It’s too much for most people,” he said. “Most mortals. And not easy on us, either. Watching someone you love age and die. I knew a girl, once, immortal like me—”
“And she was with someone mortal?” said Alec. “What happened?”
“He died,” Magnus said. There was a finality to the way he said it that spoke of a deeper grief than words could paint. His cat’s eyes shone in the dark. “I don’t know why I thought this would ever work,” he said. “I’m sorry, Alec. I shouldn’t have come.”
“No,” Alec said. “You shouldn’t.”
Magnus was looking at Alec a little warily, as if he had approached someone familiar on the street only to find out they were a stranger.
“I don’t know why you did,” Alec said. “I know I’ve been torturing myself for weeks now about you, and what I did, and how I shouldn’t have done it, shouldn’t ever have talked to Camille. I’ve been sorry and I’ve understood and I’ve apologized and apologized, and you haven’t ever been there. I did all that without you. So it makes me wonder what else I could do, without you.” He looked at Magnus meditatively. “It was my fault, what happened. But it was your fault too. I could have learned not to care that you’re immortal and I’m mortal. Everyone gets the time they get together, and no more. Maybe we’re not so different that way. But you know what I can’t get past? That you never tell me anything. I don’t know when you were born. I don’t know anything about your life—what your real name is, or about your family, or what the first face you ever loved was, or the first time your heart was broken. You know everything about me, and I know nothing about you. That’s the real problem.”
“I told you,” Magnus said softly, “on our first date that you would have to take me as I came, no questions—”
Alec waved that away. “That’s not a fair thing to ask, and you know—you knew—I didn’t understand enough about love then to understand that. You act like you’re the wronged party, but you had a hand in this, Magnus.”
“Yes,” Magnus said after a pause. “Yes, I suppose I did.”
“But that doesn’t change anything?” Alec said, feeling the cold air stealing under his rib cage. “It never does, with you.”
“I can’t change,” Magnus said. “It’s been too long. We petrify, you know, immortals, like fossils turn to stone. I thought when I met you that you had all this wonder and all this joy and everything was new to you, and I thought it would change me, but—”
“Change yourself,” Alec said, but it didn’t come out angry, or stern, as he had intended it, but soft, like a plea.
But Magnus only shook his head. “Alec,” he said. “You know my dream. The one about the city made of blood, and blood in the streets, and towers of bone. If Sebastian gets what he wants, that will be this world. The blood will be Nephilim blood. Go to Idris. You’re safer there, but don’t be trusting, and don’t let your guard down. I need you to live,” he breathed, and turned around, very abruptly, and walked away.
I need you to live.
Alec sat down on the frozen stone bench and put his face in his hands.
“Not good-bye forever,” Simon protested, but Isabelle just frowned.
“Come here,” she said, and tugged at his sleeve. She was wearing dark red velvet gloves, and her hand looked like a splash of blood against the navy fabric of his jacket.
Simon pushed the thought away. He wished he wouldn’t think about blood at inopportune times. “Come where?”
Isabelle just rolled her eyes and pulled him sideways, into a shadowed alcove near the front gates of the Institute. The space wasn’t a large one, and Simon could feel the heat from Isabelle’s body—warmth and cold didn’t affect him since he’d become a vampire, unless it was the heat of blood. He didn’t know if it was because he’d drunk Isabelle’s blood before, or if it was something deeper, but he was aware of the pulse of blood through her veins the way he was of no one else’s.
“I wish I were coming with you to Idris,” he said without preamble.
“You’re safer here,” she said, though her dark eyes softened. “Besides, we’re not going forever. The only Downworlders who can go to Alicante are Council members because they’re going to have a meeting, figure out what we’re all going to do, and probably send us back out. We can’t hide in Idris while Sebastian rampages around outside it. Shadowhunters don’t do that.”
He stroked a finger down her cheek. “But you want me to hide here?”
“You’ve got Jordan to watch you here,” she said. “Your own personal bodyguard. You’re Clary’s best friend,” she added. “Sebastian knows that. You’re hostage material. You should be where he isn’t.”
“He’s never shown any interest in me before. I don’t see why he’d start now.”
She shrugged, pulling her cloak tighter around herself. “He’s never shown any interest in anyone but Clary and Jace, but that doesn’t mean he won’t start. He’s not stupid.” She said it grudgingly, as if she hated to give Sebastian even that much credit. “Clary would do anything for you.”
“She’d do anything for you, too, Izzy.” And at Isabelle’s doubtful look, he cupped her cheek. “Okay, so if you won’t be gone all that long, then what’s all this about, then?”
She made a face. Her cheeks and mouth were rosy, the cold bringing the red to the surface. He wished he could press his cold lips to hers, so full of blood and life and warmth, but he was conscious of her parents watching. “I heard Clary when she was saying good-bye to you. She said she loved you.”
Simon stared. “Yes, but she didn’t mean it that way—Izzy—”
“I know that,” Isabelle protested. “Please, I know that. But it’s just that she says it so easily, and you say it back so easily, and I’ve never said it to anyone. Not anyone who wasn’t related to me.”
“But if you say it,” he said, “you could get hurt. That’s why you don’t.”
“So could you.” Her eyes were big and black, reflecting the stars. “Get hurt. I could hurt you.”
“I know,” Simon said. “I know and I don’t care. Jace told me once you’d walk all over my heart in high-heeled boots, and it hasn’t stopped me.”
Isabelle gave a little gasp of startled laughter. “He said that? And you stuck around?”
He leaned in toward her; if he had breath, it would have stirred her hair. “I would consider it an honor.”
She turned her head, and their lips brushed together. Hers were achingly warm. She was doing something with her hands—unfastening her cloak, he thought for a moment, but surely Isabelle wasn’t about to start taking her clothes off in front of her entire family? Not that Simon was sure he’d have the fortitude to stop her. She was Isabelle, after all, and she had almost—almost—said she loved him.
Her lips moved against his skin as she spoke. “Take this,” she whispered, and he felt something cold at the back of his neck, and the smooth glide of velvet as she drew back and her gloves brushed his throat.
He glanced down. Against his chest gleamed a blood-red square. Isabelle’s ruby pendant. It was a Shadowhunter heirloom, enchanted to detect the presence of demonic energy.
“I can’t take this,” he said, shocked. “Iz, this must be worth a fortune.”
She squared her shoulders. “It’s a loan, not a gift. Keep it until I see you again.” She brushed her gloved fingers across the ruby. “There’s an old story that it came into our family by way of a vampire. So it’s fitting.”
“Don’t,” she said, cutting him off, though he didn’t know exactly what he’d been about to say. “Don’t say it, not now.” She was backing away from him. He could see her family behind her, all that was left of the Conclave. Luke had gone through the Portal, and Jocelyn was in the middle of following him. Alec, coming around the side of the Institute with his hands in his pockets, glanced over at Isabelle and Simon, raised an eyebrow, and kept walking. “Just don’t—don’t date anyone else while I’m gone, okay?”
He stared after her. “Does that mean we’re dating?” he said, but she only quirked a smile and then turned and dashed toward the Portal. He saw her take Alec’s hand, and they stepped through together. Maryse followed, and then Jace, and then, finally, Clary was the last, standing beside Catarina, framed by sizzling blue light.
She winked at Simon and stepped through. He saw the whirl of the Portal as it caught her, and then she was gone.
Simon put his hand to the ruby at his throat. He thought he could feel a beat inside the stone, a shifting pulse. It was almost like having a heart again.
BIRDS TO THE MOUNTAIN
Clary set her bag down by the door and looked around.
She could hear her mother and Luke moving around her, putting down their own luggage, turning on the witchlights that illuminated Amatis’s house. Clary braced herself. They still had little idea how Amatis had been taken by Sebastian. Though the place had already been examined by Council members for dangerous materials, Clary knew her brother. If the mood had taken him, he would have destroyed everything in the house, just to show that he could—turned the sofas to kindling, shattered the glass in the mirrors, blown the windows to smithereens.
She heard her mother give a small exhale of relief and knew Jocelyn must have been thinking what Clary was: Whatever had happened, the house looked fine. There was nothing in it to indicate that harm had come to Amatis. Books were stacked on the coffee table, the floors were dusty but uncluttered, the photographs on the walls were straight. Clary saw with a pang that there was a recent photograph near the fireplace of her, Luke, and Jocelyn at Coney Island, arms around one another, smiling.
She thought of the last time she had seen Luke’s sister, Sebastian forcing Amatis to drink from the Infernal Cup as she screamed in protest. The way the personality had faded out of her eyes after she had swallowed its contents. Clary wondered if that was what it was like to watch someone die. Not that she hadn’t seen death, too. Valentine had died in front of her. Surely she was too young to have so many ghosts.
Luke had moved to look at the fireplace, and the photos hanging around it. He reached out to touch one that showed two blue-eyed children. One of them, the younger boy, was drawing, while his sister looked on, her expression fond.
Luke looked exhausted. Their Portal travel had taken them to the Gard, and they had walked down through the city to Amatis’s house. Luke still winced often from the pain of the wound in his side that hadn’t quite healed, but Clary doubted that the injury was what was affecting him. The quiet in Amatis’s house, the homey rag rugs on the floor, the carefully arranged personal mementoes—everything spoke of an ordinary life interrupted in the most terrible way possible.
Jocelyn moved over to put her hand on Luke’s shoulder, murmuring soothingly. He turned in the circle of her arms, putting his head against her shoulder. It was more comforting than in any way romantic, but Clary still felt as if she had stumbled on a private moment. Soundlessly she plucked up her duffel bag and made her way up the stairs.
The spare room hadn’t changed. Small; the walls painted white; the windows, like portholes, circular—there was the window Jace had crawled through one night—and the same colorful quilt on the bed. She dropped her bag onto the floor near the nightstand. The nightstand, where Jace had left a letter in the morning, telling her he was going and he wasn’t coming back.
She sat down on the edge of the bed, trying to shake off the web of memories. She hadn’t realized how hard it would be to be back in Idris. New York was home, normal. Idris was war and devastation. In Idris she had seen death for the first time.
Her blood was humming, pounding hard in her ears. She wanted to see Jace, to see Alec and Isabelle—they would ground her, give her a sense of normalcy. She was able, very faintly, to hear her mother and Luke moving around downstairs, possibly even the clink of cups in the kitchen. She swung herself off the bed and went to the foot, where a square trunk rested. It was the trunk Amatis had brought up for her when she had been here before, telling her to go through it to find clothes.
She knelt down now and opened it. The same clothes, carefully packed away between layers of paper: school uniforms, practical sweaters and jeans, more formal shirts and skirts, and beneath that a dress Clary had first thought was a wedding gown. She drew it out. Now that she was more familiar with Shadowhunters and their world, she recognized it for what it was.
Mourning clothes. A white dress, simple, and a close-fitting jacket, with silver mourning runes worked into the material—and there, at the cuffs, an almost invisible design of birds.
Herons. Clary laid the clothes carefully on the bed. She could see, in her mind’s eye, Amatis wearing these clothes when Stephen Herondale had died. Putting them on carefully, smoothing down the fabric, buttoning the jacket close, all to mourn a man to whom she’d no longer been married. Widow’s clothes for someone who had not been able to call herself a widow.
“Clary?” It was her mother, leaning in the doorway, watching her. “What are those—Oh.” She crossed the room, touched the fabric of the dress, and sighed. “Oh, Amatis.”
“She never did get over Stephen, did she?” asked Clary.
“Sometimes people don’t.” Jocelyn’s hand moved from the dress to Clary’s hair, tucked it back with quick motherly precision. “And Nephilim—we do tend to love very overwhelmingly. To fall in love only once, to die of grief over love—my old tutor used to say that the hearts of Nephilim were like the hearts of angels: They felt every human pain, and never healed.”
“But you did. You loved Valentine, but now you love Luke.”
“I know.” Jocelyn’s look was faraway. “It wasn’t until I spent more time in the mundane world that I started to realize that it wasn’t how most human beings thought of love. I realized that you might have it more than once, that your heart could heal, that you could love over and over again. And I always loved Luke. I might not have known it, but I always did love him.” Jocelyn pointed at the clothes on the bed. “You should wear the mourning jacket,” she said. “Tomorrow.”
Startled, Clary said, “To the meeting?”
“Shadowhunters have died and been turned Dark,” said Jocelyn. “Every Shadowhunter lost is someone’s son, brother, sister, cousin. Nephilim are a family. A dysfunctional family, but . . .” She touched her daughter’s face, her own expression hidden in the shadows. “Get some sleep, Clary,” she said. “Tomorrow is going to be a long day.”
After the door shut behind her mother, Clary put on her nightgown and then clambered obediently into bed. She shut her eyes and tried to sleep, but sleep wouldn’t come. Images kept bursting behind her eyelids like fireworks: angels falling from the sky; golden blood; Ithuriel in his chains, with his blinded eyes, telling her of the images of runes he had given her through her life, the visions and dreams of the future. She remembered her dreams of her brother with black wings that spilled blood, walking across a frozen lake. . . .
She threw the coverlet off. She felt hot and itchy, too strung-up to sleep. After getting out of bed, she padded downstairs in search of a glass of water. The living room was half-lit, dim witchlight spilling down the corridor. Murmurs came from beyond the door. Someone was awake, and talking in the kitchen. Clary moved down the corridor warily, until soft overheard whispers began to take on shape and familiarity. She recognized her mother’s voice first, taut with distress. “But I just don’t understand how it could have been in the cupboard,” she was saying. “I haven’t seen it since—since Valentine took everything we owned, back in New York.”
Luke spoke: “Didn’t Clary say that Jonathan had it?”
“Yes, but then it would have been destroyed with that foul apartment, wouldn’t it?” Jocelyn’s voice rose as Clary moved to stand in the doorway of the kitchen. “The one with all the clothes Valentine bought for me. As if I were coming back.”
Clary stood very still. Her mother and Luke were sitting at the kitchen table; her mother had her head down on one hand, and Luke was rubbing her back. Clary had told her mother everything about the apartment, about how Valentine had maintained it with all Jocelyn’s things there, determined that one day his wife would come back and live with him. Her mother had listened calmly, but clearly the story had upset her much more than Clary had realized.
“He’s gone now, Jocelyn,” said Luke. “I know it might seem half-impossible. Valentine was always such a huge presence, even when he was in hiding. But he really is dead.”
“My son isn’t, though,” said Jocelyn. “You know, I used to take this box out and cry over it, every year, on his birthday? I dream sometimes, of a boy with green eyes, a boy who was never poisoned with demon blood, a boy who could laugh and love and be human, and that is the boy I wept over, but that boy never existed.” Take it out and cry over it, Clary thought—she knew what box her mother meant. A box that was a memorial to a child that had died, though he still lived. The box had contained locks of his baby hair, photographs, and a tiny shoe. The last time Clary had seen it, it had been in her brother’s possession. Valentine must have given it to him, though she could never understand why Sebastian had kept it. He was hardly the sentimental sort.
“You’re going to have to tell the Clave,” Luke said. “If it’s something that has to do with Sebastian, they’ll want to know.”
Clary felt her stomach go cold.
“I wish I didn’t have to,” Jocelyn said. “I wish I could throw the whole thing into the fire. I hate that this is my fault,” she burst out. “And all I’ve ever wanted was to protect Clary. But the thing that frightens me most for her, for all of us, is someone who wouldn’t even be alive if it weren’t for me.” Jocelyn’s voice had gone flat and bitter. “I should have killed him when he was a baby,” she said, and leaned back, away from Luke, so that Clary saw what was on the surface of the kitchen table. It was the silver box, just as she remembered it. Heavy, with a simple lid, and the initials J.C. carved into the side.