“They’re doing what they can,” Alec said. “They’re shoring up the wards around Idris and Alicante. All the wards, in fact. They’ve sent dozens of experts to Wrangel Island.”
Wrangel Island was the seat of all the world’s wards, the spells that protected the globe, and Idris in particular, from demons and demon invasion. The network of wards wasn’t perfect, and demons slipped through sometimes anyway, but Clary could only imagine how bad the situation would get if the wards didn’t exist.
“I heard Mom say that the warlocks of the Spiral Labyrinth have been looking for a way to reverse the effects of the Infernal Cup,” said Isabelle. “Of course it would be easier if they had bodies to study. . . .”
She trailed off; Clary knew why. The bodies of the Dark Shadowhunters killed at the Burren had been brought back to the Bone City for the Silent Brothers to examine. The Brothers had never gotten the chance. Overnight the bodies had rotted away to the equivalent of decade-old corpses. There had been nothing to do but burn the remains.
Isabelle found her voice again: “And the Iron Sisters are churning out weapons. We’re getting thousands more seraph blades, swords, chakhrams, everything . . . forged in heavenly fire.” She looked at Jace. In the days immediately following the battle at the Burren, when the fire had raged through Jace’s veins violently enough to make him scream sometimes with the pain, the Silent Brothers had examined him over and over, had tested him with ice and flame, with blessed metal and cold iron, trying to see if there was some way to draw the fire out of him, to contain it.
They hadn’t found one. The fire of Glorious, having once been captured in a blade, seemed in no hurry to inhabit another, or indeed to leave Jace’s body for any kind of vessel. Brother Zachariah had told Clary that in the earliest days of Shadowhunters, the Nephilim had sought to capture heavenly fire in a weapon, something that could be wielded against demons. They had never managed it, and eventually seraph blades had become their weapons of choice. In the end, again, the Silent Brothers had given up. Glorious’s fire lay curled in Jace’s veins like a serpent, and the best he could hope for was to control it so that it didn’t destroy him.
The loud beep of a text message sounded; Isabelle had flicked on her phone again. “Mom says to get back to the Institute now,” she said. “There’s some meeting. We have to be at it.” She stood up, brushing dirt from her dress. “I’d invite you back,” she said to Simon, “but you know, banned for being undead and all.”
“I did remember that,” Simon said, getting to his feet. Clary scrambled up and reached a hand down to Jace. He took it and stood.
“Simon and I are going Christmas shopping,” she said. “And none of you can come, because we have to get you presents.”
Alec looked horrified. “Oh, God. Does that mean I have to get you guys presents?”
Clary shook her head. “Don’t Shadowhunters do . . . you know, Christmas?” She thought back suddenly to the rather distressing Thanksgiving dinner at Luke’s when Jace, on being asked to carve the turkey, had laid into the bird with a sword until there had been little left but turkey flakes. Maybe not?
“We exchange gifts, we honor the change of the seasons,” said Isabelle. “There used to be a winter celebration of the Angel. It observed the day the Mortal Instruments were given to Jonathan Shadowhunter. I think Shadowhunters got annoyed with being left out of all the mundane celebrations, though, so a lot of Institutes have Christmas parties. The London one is famous.” She shrugged. “I just don’t think we’re going to do it . . . this year.”
“Oh.” Clary felt awful. Of course they didn’t want to celebrate Christmas after losing Max. “Well, let us get you presents, at least. There doesn’t have to be a party, or anything like that.”
“Exactly.” Simon threw his arms up. “I have to buy Hanukkah presents. It’s mandated by Jewish law. The God of the Jews is an angry God. And very gift-oriented.”
Clary smiled at him. He was finding it easier and easier to say the word “God” these days.
Jace sighed, and kissed Clary—a quick good-bye brush of lips against her temple, but it made her shiver. Not being able to touch Jace or kiss him properly was starting to make her jump out of her own skin. She’d promised him it would never matter, that she’d love him even if they could never touch again, but she hated it anyway, hated missing the reassurance of the way they had always fit together physically. “See you later,” Jace said. “I’m going to head back with Alec and Izzy—”
“No, you’re not,” Isabelle said unexpectedly. “You broke Alec’s phone. Granted, we’ve all been wanting to do that for weeks—”
“ISABELLE,” Alec said.
“But the fact is, you’re his parabatai, and you’re the only one who hasn’t been to see Magnus. Go talk to him.”
“And tell him what?” Jace said. “You can’t talk people into not breaking up with you. . . . Or maybe you can,” he added hastily, at Alec’s expression. “Who can say? I’ll give it a try.”
“Thanks.” Alec clapped Jace on the shoulder. “I’ve heard you can be charming when you want to be.”
“I’ve heard the same,” Jace said, breaking into a backward jog. He was even graceful doing that, Clary thought gloomily. And sexy. Definitely sexy. She lifted her hand in a halfhearted wave.
“See you later,” she called. If I’m not dead from frustration by then.
The Frays had never been a religiously observant family, but Clary loved Fifth Avenue at Christmastime. The air smelled like sweet roasted chestnuts, and the window displays sparkled with silver and blue, green and red. This year there were fat round crystal snowflakes attached to each lamppost, sending back the winter sunlight in shafts of gold. Not to mention the huge tree at Rockefeller Center. It threw its shadow across them when she and Simon draped themselves over the gate at the side of the skating rink, watching tourists fall down as they tried to navigate the ice.
Clary had a hot chocolate wrapped in her hands, the warmth spreading through her body. She felt almost normal—this, coming to Fifth to see the window displays and the tree, had been a winter tradition for her and Simon for as long as she could remember.
“Feels like old times, doesn’t it?” he said, echoing her thoughts as he propped his chin on his folded arms.
She chanced a sideways look at him. He was wearing a black topcoat and scarf that emphasized the pallor of his skin. His eyes were shadowed, indicating that he hadn’t fed on blood recently. He looked like what he was—a hungry, tired vampire.
Well, she thought. Almost like old times. “More people to buy presents for,” she said. “Plus, the always traumatic what-to-buy-someone-for-the-first-Christmas-after-you’ve-started-dating question.”
“What to get the Shadowhunter who has everything,” Simon said with a grin.
“Jace mostly likes weapons,” Clary said. “He likes books, but they have a huge library at the Institute. He likes classical music. . . .” She brightened. Simon was a musician; even though his band was terrible, and was always changing their name—currently they were Lethal Soufflé—he did have training. “What would you give someone who likes to play the piano?”
“A really huge metronome that could also double as a weapon?”
Clary sighed, exasperated.
“Sheet music. Rachmaninoff is tough stuff, but he likes a challenge.”
“Good idea. I’m going to see if there’s a music store around here.” Clary, done with her hot chocolate, tossed the cup into a nearby trash can and pulled her phone out. “What about you? What are you giving Isabelle?”
“I have absolutely no idea,” Simon said. They had started heading toward the avenue, where a steady stream of pedestrians gawking at the windows clogged the streets.
“Oh, come on. Isabelle’s easy.”
“That’s my girlfriend you’re talking about.” Simon’s brows drew together. “I think. I’m not sure. We haven’t discussed it. The relationship, I mean.”
“You really have to DTR, Simon.”
“Define the relationship. What it is, where it’s going. Are you boyfriend and girlfriend, just having fun, ‘it’s complicated,’ or what? When’s she going to tell her parents? Are you allowed to see other people?”
Simon blanched. “What? Seriously?”
“Seriously. In the meantime—perfume!” Clary grabbed Simon by the back of his coat and hauled him into a cosmetics store. It was massive on the inside, with rows of gleaming bottles everywhere. “And something unusual,” she said, heading for the fragrance area. “Isabelle isn’t going to want to smell like everyone else. She’s going to want to smell like figs, or vetiver, or—”
“Figs? Figs have a smell?” Simon looked horrified; Clary was about to laugh at him when her phone buzzed. It was her mother.
WHERE ARE YOU?
Clary rolled her eyes and texted back. Jocelyn still got nervous when she thought Clary was out with Jace. Even though, as Clary had pointed out, Jace was probably the safest boyfriend in the world since he was pretty much banned from (1) getting angry, (2) making sexual advances, and (3) doing anything that would produce an adrenaline rush.
On the other hand, he had been possessed; she and her mother had both watched while he’d stood by and let Sebastian threaten Luke. Clary still hadn’t talked about everything she’d seen in the apartment she’d shared with Jace and Sebastian for that brief time out of time, a mixture of dream and nightmare. She’d never told her mother that Jace had killed someone; there were things Jocelyn didn’t need to know, things Clary didn’t want to face herself.
“There is so much in this store I can picture Magnus wanting,” Simon said, picking up a glass bottle of body glitter suspended in some kind of oil. “Is it against some kind of rule to buy presents for someone who broke up with your friend?”
“I guess it depends. Is Magnus your closer friend, or Alec?”
“Alec remembers my name,” said Simon, and he set the bottle back down. “And I feel bad for him. I understand why Magnus did it, but Alec is so wrecked. I feel like if someone loves you, they should forgive you, if you’re really sorry.”
“I think it depends what you did,” Clary said. “I don’t mean Alec—I just mean in general. I’m sure Isabelle would forgive you for anything,” she added hastily.
Simon looked dubious.
“Hold still,” she announced, wielding a bottle near his head. “In three minutes I’m going to smell your neck.”
“Well, I never,” said Simon. “You’ve waited a long time to make your move, Fray, I’ll say that for you.”
Clary didn’t bother with a smart retort; she was still thinking of what Simon had said about forgiveness, and remembering someone else, someone else’s voice and face and eyes. Sebastian sitting across from her at a table in Paris. Do you think you can forgive me? I mean, do you think forgiveness is possible for someone like me?
“There are things you can never forgive,” she said. “I can never forgive Sebastian.”
“You don’t love him.”
“No, but he’s my brother. If things were different—” But they’re not different. Clary abandoned the thought, and leaned in to inhale instead. “You smell like figs and apricots.”
“Do you really think Isabelle wants to smell like a dried fruit plate?”
“Maybe not.” Clary picked up another bottle. “So, what are you going to do?”
Clary looked up from pondering the question of how a tuberose was different from a regular rose, to see Simon looking at her with puzzlement in his brown eyes. She said, “Well, you can’t live with Jordan forever, right? There’s college . . .”
“You’re not going to college,” he said.
“No, but I’m a Shadowhunter. We keep studying after eighteen, we get posted to other Institutes—that’s our college.”
“I don’t like the thought of you going away.” He shoved his hands into the pockets of his coat. “I can’t go to college,” he said. “My mother’s not exactly going to pay for it, and I can’t take out student loans. I’m legally dead. And besides, how long would it take everyone at school to notice they were getting older but I wasn’t? Sixteen-year-olds don’t look like college seniors, I don’t know if you’ve noticed.”
Clary set the bottle down. “Simon . . .”
“Maybe I should get my mom something,” he said bitterly. “What says ‘Thanks for throwing me out of the house and pretending I died’?”
But Simon’s joking mood had gone. “Maybe it’s not like old times,” he said. “I would have gotten you pencils usually, art supplies, but you don’t draw anymore, do you, except with your stele? You don’t draw, and I don’t breathe. Not so much like last year.”
“Maybe you should talk to Raphael,” Clary said.
“He knows how vampires live,” Clary said. “How they make lives for themselves, how they make money, how they get apartments—he does know those things. He could help.”
“He could, but he wouldn’t,” said Simon with a frown. “I haven’t heard anything from the Dumort bunch since Maureen took over from Camille. I know Raphael is her second in command. I’m pretty sure they still think I have the Mark of Cain; otherwise they would have sent someone after me by now. Matter of time.”
“No. They know not to touch you. It would be war with the Clave. The Institute’s been very clear,” said Clary. “You’re protected.”
“Clary,” Simon said. “None of us are protected.”
Before Clary could answer, she heard someone call out her name; thoroughly puzzled, she looked over and saw her mother shoving her way through a crowd of shoppers. Through the window she could see Luke, waiting outside on the sidewalk. In his flannel shirt he looked out of place among the stylish New Yorkers.
Breaking free of the crowd, Jocelyn caught up to them and threw her arms around Clary. Clary looked over her mother’s shoulder, baffled, at Simon. He shrugged. Finally Jocelyn released her and stepped back. “I was so worried something had happened to you—”
“In Sephora?” Clary said.
Jocelyn’s brow furrowed. “You haven’t heard? I would have thought Jace would have texted you by now.”
Clary felt a sudden cold wash through her veins, as if she’d swallowed icy water. “No. I—What’s going on?”
“I’m sorry, Simon,” Jocelyn said. “But Clary and I have to get to the Institute right away.”
Not much had changed at Magnus’s since the first time Jace had been there. The same small entryway and single yellow bulb. Jace used an Open rune to get in through the front door, took the stairs two at a time, and buzzed Magnus’s apartment bell. Safer than using another rune, he figured. After all, Magnus could be playing video games naked or, really, doing practically anything. Who knew what warlocks got up to in their spare time?
Jace buzzed again, this time leaning firmly on the doorbell. Two more long buzzes, and Magnus finally yanked the door open, looking furious. He was wearing a black silk dressing gown over a white dress shirt and tweed pants. His feet were bare. His dark hair was tangled, and there was the shadow of stubble on his jaw. “What are you doing here?” he demanded.
“My, my,” said Jace. “So unwelcoming.”
“That’s because you’re not welcome.”
Jace raised an eyebrow. “I thought we were friends.”
“No. You’re Alec’s friend. Alec was my boyfriend, so I had to put up with you. But now he’s not my boyfriend, so I don’t have to put up with you. Not that any of you seem to realize it. You must be the—what, fourth?—of you lot to bother me.” Magnus counted off on his long fingers. “Clary. Isabelle. Simon—”
“Simon came by?”
“You seem surprised.”
“I didn’t think he was that invested in your relationship with Alec.”
“I don’t have a relationship with Alec,” said Magnus flatly, but Jace had already shouldered past him and was in his living room, looking around curiously.
One of the things Jace had always secretly liked about Magnus’s apartment was that it rarely looked the same way twice. Sometimes it was a big modern loft. Sometimes it looked like a French bordello, or a Victorian opium den, or the inside of a spaceship. Right now, though, it was messy and dark. Stacks of old Chinese food cartons littered the coffee table. Chairman Meow lay on the rag rug, all four legs sticking straight out in front of him like a dead deer.
“It smells like heartbreak in here,” said Jace.
“That’s the Chinese food.” Magnus threw himself onto the sofa and stretched out his long legs. “Go on, get it over with. Say whatever you came here to say.”
“I think you should get back together with Alec,” said Jace.
Magnus rolled his eyes up to the ceiling. “And why is that?”
“Because he’s miserable,” said Jace. “And he’s sorry. He’s sorry about what he did. He won’t do it again.”
“Oh, he won’t sneak around behind my back with one of my exes planning to shorten my life again? Very noble of him.”
“Besides, Camille’s dead. He can’t do it again.”
“You know what I mean,” said Jace. “He won’t lie to you or mislead you or hide things from you or whatever it is you’re actually upset about.” He threw himself into a wingback leather chair and raised an eyebrow. “So?”
Magnus rolled onto his side. “What do you care if Alec’s miserable?”
“What do I care?” Jace said, so loudly that Chairman Meow sat bolt upright as if he’d been shocked. “Of course I care about Alec; he’s my best friend, my parabatai. And he’s unhappy. And so are you, by the look of things. Take-out containers everywhere, you haven’t done anything to fix up the place, your cat looks dead—”
“He’s not dead.”
“I care about Alec,” Jace said, fixing Magnus with an unswerving gaze. “I care about him more than I care about myself.”
“Don’t you ever think,” Magnus mused, pulling at a bit of peeling fingernail polish, “that the whole parabatai business is rather cruel? You can choose your parabatai, but then you can never un-choose them. Even if they turn on you. Look at Luke and Valentine. And though your parabatai is the closest person in the world to you in some ways, you can’t fall in love with them. And if they die, some part of you dies too.”
“How do you know so much about parabatai?”
“I know Shadowhunters,” said Magnus, patting the sofa beside him so that the Chairman leaped up onto the cushions and nudged at Magnus with his head. The warlock’s long fingers sank into the cat’s fur. “I have for a long time. You are odd creatures. All fragile nobility and humanity on one side, and all the thoughtless fire of angels on the other.” His eyes flicked toward Jace. “You especially, Herondale, for you have the fire of angels in your blood.”
“You’ve been friends with Shadowhunters before?”
“Friends,” said Magnus. “What does that mean, really?”
“You’d know,” said Jace, “if you had any. Do you? Do you have friends? I mean, besides the people who come to your parties. Most people are afraid of you, or they seem to owe you something or you slept with them once, but friends—I don’t see you having a lot of those.”
“Well, this is novel,” said Magnus. “None of the rest of your group has tried insulting me.”
“Is it working?”
“If you mean do I suddenly feel compelled to get back together with Alec, no,” said Magnus. “I have developed an odd craving for pizza, but that might be unrelated.”
“Alec said you do that,” said Jace. “Deflect questions about yourself with jokes.”
Magnus narrowed his eyes. “And I’m the only one who does that?”
“Exactly,” Jace said. “Take it from someone who knows. You hate talking about yourself, and you’d rather make people angry than be pitied. How old are you, Magnus? The real answer.”
Magnus said nothing.
“What were your parents’ names? Your father’s name?”
Magnus glared at him out of gold-green eyes. “If I wanted to lie on a couch and complain to someone about my parents, I’d hire a psychiatrist.”
“Ah,” said Jace. “But my services are free.”
“I heard that about you.”
Jace grinned and slid down in his chair. There was a pillow with a pattern of the Union Jack on the ottoman. He grabbed it and put it behind his head. “I don’t have anywhere to be. I can sit here all day.”
“Great,” Magnus said. “I’m going to take a nap.” He reached out for a crumpled blanket lying on the floor, just as Jace’s phone rang. Magnus watched, arrested midmotion, as Jace dug around in his pocket and flipped the phone open.
It was Isabelle. “Jace?”