“He’s here,” Mrs. Branwell said calmly. “In the Institute.”
“Did he bring me here as well?” Tessa whispered.
“Yes, but there is no need to look betrayed, Miss Gray. You had struck your head quite hard, and Will was concerned about you. Brother Enoch, though his looks might frighten you, is a skilled practitioner of medicine. He has determined that your head injury is slight, and in the main you are suffering from shock and nervous anxiety. In fact, it might be for the best if you sat down now. Hovering barefoot by the door like that will only give you a chill, and do you little good.”
“You mean because I can’t run,” Tessa said, licking her dry lips. “I can’t get away.”
“If you demand to get away, as you put it, after we have talked, I will let you go,” said Mrs. Branwell. “The Nephilim do not trap Downworlders under duress. The Accords forbid it.”
Mrs. Branwell hesitated, then turned to Brother Enoch and said something to him in a low voice. Much to Tessa’s relief, he drew up the hood of his parchment-colored robes, hiding his face. A moment later he was moving toward Tessa; she stepped back hurriedly and he opened the door, pausing only for a moment on the threshold.
In that moment, he spoke to Tessa. Or perhaps “spoke” was not the word for it: She heard his voice inside her head, rather than outside it. You are Eidolon, Theresa Gray. Shape-changer. But not of a sort that is familiar to me. There is no demon’s mark on you.
Shape-changer. He knew what she was. She stared at him, her heart pounding, as he went through the door and closed it behind him. Tessa knew somehow that if she were to run to the door and try the handle she would once again find it locked, but the urge to escape had left her. Her knees felt as if they had turned to water. She sank down in one of the large chairs by the bed.
“What is it?” Mrs. Branwell asked, moving to sit in the chair opposite Tessa’s. Her dress hung so loosely on her small frame, it was impossible to tell if she wore a corset beneath it, and the bones in her small wrists were like a child’s. “What did he say to you?”
Tessa shook her head, gripping her hands together in her lap so that Mrs. Branwell could not see her fingers trembling.
Mrs. Branwell looked at her keenly. “First,” she said, “please call me Charlotte, Miss Gray. Everyone in the Institute does. We Shadowhunters are not so formal as most.”
Tessa nodded, feeling her cheeks flush. It was hard to tell how old Charlotte was; she was so small that she looked quite young indeed, but her air of authority made her seem older, old enough that the idea of calling her by her Christian name seemed very odd. Still, as Aunt Harriet would have said, when in Rome …
“Charlotte,” Tessa said, experimentally.
With a smile, Mrs. Branwell—Charlotte—leaned back slightly in her chair, and Tessa saw with some surprise that she had dark tattoos. A woman with tattoos! Her marks were like the ones Will bore: visible on her wrists below the tight cuffs of her dress, with one like an eye on the back of her left hand. “Second, let me tell you what I already know about you, Theresa Gray.” She spoke in the same calm tone she’d had before, but her eyes, though still kind, were sharp as pins. “You’re American. You came here from New York City because you were following your brother, who had sent you a steamship ticket. His name is Nathaniel.”
Tessa sat frozen. “How do you know all this?”
“I know that Will found you in the Dark Sisters’ house,” Charlotte said. “I know that you claimed someone named the Magister was coming for you. I know that you have no idea who the Magister is. And I know that in a battle with the Dark Sisters, you were rendered unconscious and brought here.”
Charlotte’s words were like a key unlocking a door. Suddenly Tessa remembered. Remembered running with Will down the corridor; remembered the metal doors and the room full of blood on the other side; remembered Mrs. Black, her head severed; remembered Will flinging his knife—
“Mrs. Black,” she whispered.
“Dead,” said Charlotte. “Very.” She settled her shoulders against the back of the chair; she was so slight that the chair rose up high above her, as if she were a child sitting in a parent’s chair.
“And Mrs. Dark?”
“Gone. We searched the whole house, and the nearby area, but found no trace of her.”
“The whole house?” Tessa’s voice shook, very slightly. “And there was no one in it? No one else alive, or … or dead?”
“We did not find your brother, Miss Gray,” Charlotte said. Her tone was gentle. “Not in the house, nor in any of the surrounding buildings.”
“You—were looking for him?” Tessa was bewildered.
“We did not find him,” Charlotte said again. “But we did find your letters.”
“The letters you wrote to your brother and never sent,” said Charlotte. “Folded under your mattress.”
“You read them?”
“We had to read them,” said Charlotte in the same gentle tone. “I apologize for that. It is not often that we bring a Downworlder into the Institute, or anyone who is not a Shadowhunter. It represents a great risk to us. We had to know that you were not a danger.”
Tessa turned her head to the side. There was something horribly violating about this stranger having read her inmost thoughts, all the dreams and hopes and fears she’d poured forth, not thinking anyone would ever see them. The backs of her eyes stung; tears were threatening, and she willed them back, furious with herself, with everything.
“You’re trying not to cry,” Charlotte said. “I know that when I do that myself, it sometimes helps to look at a bright light directly. Try the witchlight.”
Tessa moved her gaze to the stone in Charlotte’s hand and gazed at it fixedly. The glow of it swelled up in front of her eyes like an expanding sun. “So,” she said, fighting past the tightness in her throat, “you have decided I am not a danger, then?”
“Perhaps only to yourself,” said Charlotte. “A power such as yours, the power of shape-shifting—it is no wonder the Dark Sisters wanted to get their hands on you. Others will as well.”
“Like you do?” Tessa said. “Or are you going to pretend that you’ve let me into your precious Institute simply out of charity?”
A look of hurt flashed across Charlotte’s face. It was brief, but it was real, and it did more to convince Tessa that she might have been wrong about Charlotte than anything the other woman could have said. “It is not charity,” she said. “It is my vocation. Our vocation.”