“Just wondering how much trouble I’ll be in when I get back. I had to climb out a window to leave, but Amatis has probably noticed I’m gone by now.”
Sebastian frowned. “Why sneak out? Wouldn’t you be allowed to go see your brother?”
“I’m not supposed to be in Alicante at all,” Clary said. “I’m supposed to be home, watching safely from the sidelines.”
“Ah. That explains a lot.”
“Does it?” She cast a curious sideways glance at him. Blue shadows were caught in his dark hair.
“Everyone seemed to blanch when your name came up earlier. I gathered there was some bad blood between your brother and you.”
“Bad blood? Well, that’s one way to put it.”
“You don’t like him much?”
“Like Jace?” She’d given so much thought these past weeks as to whether she loved Jace Wayland and how, that she’d never much paused to consider whether she liked him.
“Sorry. He’s family—it’s not really about whether you like him or not.”
“I do like him,” she said, surprising herself. “I do; it’s just—he makes me furious. He tells me what I can and can’t do—”
“Doesn’t seem to work very well,” Sebastian observed.
“What do you mean?”
“You seem to do what you want anyway.”
“I suppose.” The observation startled her, coming from a near stranger. “But it seems to have made him a lot angrier than I thought it had.”
“He’ll get over it.” Sebastian’s tone was dismissive.
Clary looked at him curiously. “Do you like him?”
“I like him. But I don’t think he likes me much.” Sebastian sounded rueful. “Everything I say seems to piss him off.”
They turned off the street into a wide cobble-paved square ringed with tall, narrow buildings. At the center was the bronze statue of an angel—the Angel, the one who’d given his blood to make the race of Shadowhunters. At the northern end of the square was a massive structure of white stone. A waterfall of wide marble steps led up to a pillared arcade, behind which was a pair of huge double doors. The overall effect in the evening light was stunning—and weirdly familiar. Clary wondered if she’d seen a picture of this place before. Maybe her mother had painted one?
“This is Angel Square,” Sebastian said, “and that was the Great Hall of the Angel. The Accords were first signed there, since Downworlders aren’t allowed into the Gard—now it’s called the Accords Hall. It’s a central meeting place—celebrations take place there, marriages, dances, that sort of thing. It’s the center of the city. They say all roads lead to the Hall.”
“It looks a bit like a church—but you don’t have churches here, do you?”
“No need,” said Sebastian. “The demon towers keep us safe. We need nothing else. That’s why I like coming here. It feels … peaceful.”
Clary looked at him in surprise. “So you don’t live here?”
“No. I live in Paris. I’m just visiting Aline—she’s my cousin. My mother and her father, my uncle Patrick, were brother and sister. Aline’s parents ran the Institute in Beijing for years. They moved back to Alicante about a decade ago.”
“Were they—the Penhallows weren’t in the Circle, were they?”
A startled look flashed across Sebastian’s face. He was silent as they turned and left the square behind them, making their way into a warren of dark streets. “Why would you ask that?” he said finally.
“Well—because the Lightwoods were.”
They passed under a streetlight. Clary glanced sideways at Sebastian. In his long dark coat and white shirt, under the pool of white light, he looked like a black-and-white illustration of a gentleman from a Victorian scrapbook. His dark hair curled close against his temples in a way that made her itch to draw him in pen and ink. “You have to understand,” he said. “A good half of the young Shadowhunters in Idris were part of the Circle, and plenty of those who weren’t in Idris too. Uncle Patrick was in the early days, but he got out of the Circle once he started to realize how serious Valentine was. Neither of Aline’s parents was part of the Uprising—my uncle went to Beijing to get away from Valentine and met Aline’s mother at the Institute there. When the Lightwoods and the other Circle members were tried for treason against the Clave, the Penhallows voted for leniency. Got them sent away to New York instead of cursed. So the Lightwoods have always been grateful.”
“What about your parents?” Clary said. “Were they in it?”
“Not really. My mother was younger than Patrick—he sent her to Paris when he went to Beijing. She met my father there.”
“Your mother was younger than Patrick?”
“She’s dead,” said Sebastian. “My father, too. My aunt Élodie brought me up.”
“Oh,” Clary said, feeling stupid. “I’m sorry.”
“I don’t remember them,” Sebastian said. “Not really. When I was younger, I wished I had an older sister or a brother, someone who could tell me what it was like having them as parents.” He looked at her thoughtfully. “Can I ask you something, Clary? Why did you come to Idris at all when you knew how badly your brother would take it?”
Before she could answer him, they emerged from the narrow alley they’d been following into a familiar unlit courtyard, the disused well at its center gleaming in the moonlight. “Cistern Square,” Sebastian said, an unmistakable note of disappointment in his voice. “We got here faster than I thought we would.”
Clary glanced over the masonry bridge that spanned the nearby canal. She could see Amatis’s house in the distance. All the windows were lit. She sighed. “I can get back myself from here, thanks.”
“You don’t want me to walk you to the—”
“No. Not unless you want to get in trouble too.”
“You think I’d get in trouble? For being gentlemanly enough to walk you home?”
“No one’s supposed to know I’m in Alicante,” she said. “It’s supposed to be a secret. And no offense, but you’re a stranger.”
“I’d like not to be,” he said. “I’d like to get to know you better.” He was looking at her with a mixture of amusement and a certain shyness, as if he wasn’t sure how what he’d just said would be received.
“Sebastian,” she said, with a sudden feeling of overwhelming tiredness. “I’m glad you want to get to know me. But I just don’t have the energy to get to know you. Sorry.”
“I didn’t mean—”
But she was already walking away from him, toward the bridge. Halfway there she turned around and glanced back at Sebastian. He was looking oddly forlorn in a patch of moonlight, his dark hair falling over his face.
“Ragnor Fell,” she said.
He stared at her. “What?”
“You asked me why I came here even though I wasn’t supposed to,” Clary said. “My mother is sick. Really sick. Maybe dying. The only thing that can help her, the only person who can help her, is a warlock named Ragnor Fell. Only I have no idea where to find him.”
She turned back toward the house. “Good night, Sebastian.”
It was harder climbing up the trellis than it had been climbing down. Clary’s boots slipped a number of times on the damp stone wall, and she was relieved when she finally hauled herself up over the sill of the window and half-jumped, half-fell into the bedroom.
Her euphoria was short-lived. No sooner had her boots hit the floor than a bright light flared up, a soft explosion that lit the room to a daylight brightness.
Amatis was sitting on the edge of the bed, her back very straight, a witchlight stone in her hand. It burned with a harsh light that did nothing to soften the hard planes of her face or the lines at the corners of her mouth. She stared at Clary in silence for several long moments. Finally she said, “In those clothes, you look just like Jocelyn.”
Clary scrambled to her feet. “I—I’m sorry,” she said. “About going out like that—”
Amatis closed her hand around the witchlight, snuffing its glow. Clary blinked in the sudden dimness. “Change out of that gear,” Amatis said, “and meet me downstairs in the kitchen. And don’t even think about sneaking back out through the window,” she added, “or the next time you return to this house, you’ll find it sealed against you.”
Swallowing hard, Clary nodded.
Amatis rose to her feet and left without another word. Quickly Clary shucked off her gear and dressed in her own clothes, which hung over the bedpost, now dry—her jeans were a little stiff, but it was nice to pull on her familiar T-shirt. Shaking her tangled hair back, she headed downstairs.
The last time she’d seen the lower floor of Amatis’s house, she’d been delirious and hallucinating. She remembered long corridors stretching out to infinity and a huge grandfather clock whose ticks had sounded like the beats of a dying heart. Now she found herself in a small, homely living room, with plain wooden furniture and a rag rug on the floor. The small size and bright colors reminded her a little of her own living room at home in Brooklyn. She crossed through in silence and entered the kitchen, where a fire burned in the grate and the room was full of warm yellow light. Amatis was sitting at the table. She had a blue shawl wrapped around her shoulders; it made her hair seem more gray.
“Hi.” Clary hovered in the doorway. She couldn’t tell if Amatis was angry or not.
“I suppose I hardly need to ask where you went,” Amatis said, without looking up from the table. “You went to see Jonathan, didn’t you? I suppose it was only to be expected. Perhaps if I’d ever had children of my own, I’d know when a child was lying to me. But I had so hoped that, this time at least, I wouldn’t completely disappoint my brother.”
“You know what happened when he was bitten?” Amatis stared straight in front of her. “When my brother was bitten by a werewolf—and of course he was: Valentine was always taking stupid risks with himself and his followers; it was just a matter of time—he came and told me what had happened and how scared he was that he might have contracted the lycanthropic disease. And I said … I said …”
“Amatis, you don’t have to tell me this—”
“I told him to get out of my house and not to come back until he was sure he didn’t have it. I cringed away from him—I couldn’t help it.” Her voice shook. “He could see how disgusted I was; it was all over my face. He said he was afraid that if he did have it, if he’d become a were-creature, that Valentine would ask him to kill himself, and I said … I said that maybe that would be the best thing.”
Clary gave a little gasp; she couldn’t help it.
Amatis looked up quickly. Self-loathing was written all over her face. “Luke was always so basically good, whatever Valentine tried to get him to do—sometimes I thought he and Jocelyn were the only really good people I knew—and I couldn’t stand the idea of him being turned into some monster….”
“But he’s not like that. He’s not a monster.”
“I didn’t know. After he did Change, after he fled from here, Jocelyn worked and worked to convince me that he was still the same person inside, still my brother. If it hadn’t been for her, I never would have agreed to see him again. I let him stay here when he came before the Uprising—let him hide in the cellar—but I could tell he didn’t really trust me, not after I’d turned my back on him. I think he still doesn’t.”
“He trusted you enough to come to you when I was sick,” Clary said. “He trusted you enough to leave me here with you—”
“He had nowhere else to go,” said Amatis. “And look how well I’ve fared with you. I couldn’t even keep you in the house for a single day.”
Clary flinched. This was worse than being yelled at. “It’s not your fault. I lied to you and sneaked out. There wasn’t anything you could have done about it.”
“Oh, Clary,” Amatis said. “Don’t you see? There’s always something you can do. It’s just people like me who always tell themselves otherwise. I told myself there was nothing I could do about Luke. I told myself there was nothing I could do about Stephen leaving me. And I refuse even to attend the Clave’s meetings because I tell myself there’s nothing I can do to influence their decisions, even when I hate what they do. But then when I do choose to do something—well, I can’t even do that one thing right.” Her eyes shone, hard and bright in the firelight. “Go to bed, Clary,” she finished. “And from now on, you can come and go as you please. I won’t do anything to stop you. After all, like you said, there’s nothing I can do.”
“Don’t.” Amatis shook her head. “Just go to bed. Please.” Her voice held a note of finality; she turned away, as if Clary were already gone, and stared at the wall, unblinking.
Clary spun on her heel and ran up the stairs. In the spare room she kicked the door shut behind her and flung herself down onto the bed. She’d thought she wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn’t come. Jace hates me, she thought. Amatis hates me. I never got to say good-bye to Simon. My mother’s dying. And Luke has abandoned me. I’m alone. I’ve never been so alone, and it’s all my own fault. Maybe that was why she couldn’t cry, she realized, staring dry-eyed at the ceiling. Because what was the point in crying when there was no one there to comfort you? And what was worse, when you couldn’t even comfort yourself?