Will flushed, a wash of color across the pal or of his face. "Not just her."
"But you love her."
Will stared at him. "Of course I do," he said final y. "I had come to think I would never love anyone, but I love her."
"Is this curse supposed to be some business about taking away your ability to love? Because that’s nonsense if I’ve ever heard it. Jem’s your parabatai. I’ve seen you with him. You love him, don’t you?"
"Jem is my great sin," said Will. "Don’t talk to me about Jem."
"Don’t talk to you about Jem, don’t talk to you about Tessa. You want me to open a portal to the demon worlds for you, and you won’t talk to me or tell me why? I won’t do it, Will." Magnus crossed his arms over his chest.
Will rested a hand on the mantel. He was very still, the flames showing the outlines of him, the clear beautiful profile, the grace of his long slender hands.
"I saw my family today," he said, and then amended that quickly. "My sister. I saw my younger sister. Cecily. I knew they lived, but I never thought I would see them again. They cannot be near me."
"Why?" Magnus made his voice soft; he felt he was on the verge of something, some sort of breakthrough with this odd, infuriating, damaged, shattered boy. "What did they do that was so terrible?"
"What did they do?" Will ‘s voice rose. "What did they do? Nothing. It is me. I am poison. Poison to them. Poison to anyone who loves me."
"I lied to you," Will said, turning suddenly away from the fire.
"Shocking," Magnus murmured, but Will was gone, gone into his memories, which was perhaps for the best. He had begun to pace, scuffing his boots along Camil e’s lovely Persian carpet.
"You know what I’ve told you. I was in the library of my parents’ house in Wales. It was a rainy day; I was bored, going through my father’s old things.
He kept a few things from his old life as a Shadowhunter, things he had not wanted, for sentiment I suppose, to give up. An old stele, though I did not know what it was at the time, and a small, engraved box, in a false drawer of his desk. I suppose he assumed that would be enough to keep us out, but nothing is enough to keep out curious children. Of course the first thing I did upon finding the box was open it. A mist poured out of it in a blast, forming almost instantly into a living demon. The moment I saw the creature, I began to scream. I was only twelve. I’d never seen anything like it. Enormous, deadly, all jagged teeth and barbed tail-and I had nothing. No weapons.
When it roared, I fell to the carpet. The thing was hovering over me, hissing.
Then my sister burst in."
"El a. My elder sister. She had something blazing in her hand. I know what it was now-a seraph blade. I had no idea then. I screamed for her to get out, but she put herself between the creature and me. She had absolutely no fear, my sister. She never had. She was not afraid to climb the tal est tree, to ride the wildest horse-and she had no fear there, in the library. She told the thing to get out. It was hovering there like a great, ugly insect. She said, ‘I banish you.’ Then it laughed."
It would. Magnus felt a strange stirring of both pity and liking for the girl, brought up to know nothing about demons, their summoning or their banishment, yet standing her ground regardless.
"It laughed, and it swung out with its tail, knocking her to the ground. Then it fixed its eyes on me. They were all red, no whites at all. It said, ‘It is your father I would destroy, but as he is not here, you Will have to do.’ I was so shocked, all I could do was stare. El a was crawling over the carpet, grabbing for the fal en seraph blade. ‘I curse you,’ it said. ‘Al who love you Will die.
Their love Will be their destruction. It may take moments, it may take years, but any who look upon you with love Will die of it, unless you remove yourself from them forever. And I shall begin it with her.’ It snarled in El a’s direction, and vanished."
Magnus was fascinated despite himself. "And did she fal dead?"
"No." Will was still pacing. He took off his jacket, slung it over a chair. His longish dark hair had begun to curl with the heat coming off his body, mixing with the heat of the fire; it stuck to the back of his neck. "She was unharmed.
She took me in her arms. She comforted me. She told me the demon’s words meant nothing. She admitted she had read some of the forbidden books in the library, and that was how she knew what a seraph blade was, and how to use it, and that the thing I had opened was called a Pyxis, though she could not imagine why my father would have kept one. She made me promise not to touch anything of my parents’ again unless she was there, and then she led me up to bed, and sat reading while I fell asleep. I was exhausted with the shock of it all, I think. I remember hearing her murmur to my mother, something about how I had been taken il while they had been out, some childish fever. By that point I was enjoying the fuss that was being made over me, and the demon was beginning to seem a rather exciting memory. I recal planning how to tell Cecily about it-without admitting, of course, that El a had saved me while I had screamed like a child-"
"You were a child," Magnus noted.
"I was old enough," said Will. "Old enough to know what it meant when I was woken up the next morning by my mother howling with grief. She was in El a’s room, and El a was dead in her bed. They did their best to keep me out, but I saw what I needed to see. She was swel ed up, greenish-black like something had rotted her from inside. She didn’t look like my sister anymore.
She didn’t look human anymore.
"I knew what had happened, even if they didn’t. ‘A ll who love you will die.
And I shall begin it with her. ‘ It was my curse at work. I knew then that I had to get away from them-from all my family-before I brought the same horror down on them. I left that night, following the roads to London."
Magnus opened his mouth, then closed it again. For once he didn’t know what to say.
"So, you see," said Will, "my curse can hardly be called nonsense. I have seen it at work. And since that day I have striven to be sure that what happened to El a Will happen to no one else in my life. Can you imagine it? Can you?" He raked his hands through his black hair, letting the tangled strands fal back into his eyes. "Never letting anyone near you. Making everyone who might otherwise love you, hate you. I left my family to distance myself from them, and that they might forget me. Each day I must show cruelty to those I have chosen to make my home with, lest they let themselves feel too much affection for me."
"Tessa . . ." Magnus’s mind was suddenly full of the serious-faced gray- eyed girl who had looked at Will as if he were a new sun dawning on the horizon. "You think she does not love you?"
"I do not think so. I have been foul enough to her." Will ‘s voice was wretchedness and misery and self-loathing all combined. "I think there was a time when she almost-I thought she was dead, you see, and I showed her- I let her see what I felt. I think she might have returned my feelings after that.
But I crushed her, as brutal y as I could. I imagine she simply hates me now."
"And Jem," said Magnus, dreading the answer, knowing it.
"Jem is dying anyway," Will said in a choked voice. "Jem is what I have all owed myself. I tell myself, if he dies, it is not my fault. He is dying anyway, and in pain. El a’s death at least was swift. Perhaps through me he can be given a good death." He looked up miserably, met Magnus’s accusing eyes.
"No one can live with nothing," he whispered. "Jem is all I have."
"You should have told him," said Magnus. "He would have chosen to be your parabatai anyway, even knowing the risks."
"I cannot burden him with that knowledge! He would keep it secret if I asked him to, but it would pain him to know it-and the pain I cause others would only hurt him more. Yet if I were to tell Charlotte, to tell Henry and the rest, that my behavior is a sham-that every cruel thing I have said to them is a lie, that I wander the streets only to give the impression that I have been out drinking and whoring when in reality I have no desire to do either-then I have ceased to push them away."
"And thus you have never told anyone of this curse? No one but myself, since you were twelve years old?"
"I could not," Will said. "How could I be sure they would form no attachment to me, once they knew the truth? A story like that might engender pity, pity could become attachment, and then . . ."
Magnus raised his eyebrows. "Are you not concerned about me?"
"That you might love me?" Will sounded genuinely startled. "No, for you hate Nephilim, do you not? And besides, I imagine you warlocks have ways to guard against unwanted emotions. But for those like Charlotte, like Henry, if they knew the persona I presented to them was false, if they knew of my true heart . . . they might come to care for me."
"And then they would die," said Magnus.
* * * Charlotte raised her face slowly from her hands. "And you’ve absolutely no idea where he is?" she asked for the third time. "Wil is simply-gone?"
"Charlotte." Jem’s voice was soothing. They were in the drawing room, with its wal paper of flowers and vines. Sophie was by the fire, using the poker to coax more flames from the coal. Henry sat behind the desk, fiddling with a set of copper instruments; Jessamine was on the chaise, and Charlotte was in an armchair by the fire. Tessa and Jem sat somewhat primly side by side on the sofa, which made Tessa feel peculiarly like a guest. She was full of sandwiches that Bridget had brought in on a tray, and tea, its warmth slowly thawing her insides. "It isn’t as if this is unusual. When do we ever know where Will is at nighttime?"
"But this is different. He saw his family, or his sister at least. Oh, poor Will."
Charlotte’s voice shook with anxiety. "I had thought perhaps he was final y beginning to forget about them . . ."
"No one forgets about their family," said Jessamine sharply. She sat on the chaise longue with a watercolor easel and papers propped before her; she had recently made the decision that she had fal en behind in pursuing the maidenly arts, and had begun painting, cutting silhouettes, pressing flowers, and playing on the spinet in the music room, though Will said her singing voice made him think of Church when he was in a particularly complaining mood.
"Well, no, of course not," said Charlotte hastily, "but perhaps not to live with the memory constantly, as a sort of dreadful weight on you."
"As if we’d know what to do with Will if he didn’t have the morbs every day," said Jessamine. "Anyway, he can’t have cared about his family that much in the first place or he wouldn’t have left them."
Tessa gave a little gasp. "How can you say that? You don’t know why he left. You didn’t see his face at Ravenscar Manor-"
"Ravenscar Manor." Charlotte was staring blindly at the fireplace. "Of all the places I thought they’d go . . ."
"Pish and tosh," said Jessamine, looking angrily at Tessa. "At least his family’s alive. Besides, I’ll wager he wasn’t sad at all ; I’ll wager you he was shamming. He always is."
Tessa glanced toward Jem for support, but he was looking at Charlotte, and his look was as hard as a silver coin. "What do you mean," he said, "of all the places you thought they’d go? Did you know that Will ‘s family had moved?"
Charlotte started, and sighed. "Jem . . ."
"It’s important, Charlotte."
Charlotte glanced over at the tin on her desk that held her favorite lemon drops. "After Will ‘s parents came here to see him, when he was twelve, and he sent them away . . . I begged him to speak to them, just for a moment, but he wouldn’t. I tried to make him understand that if they left, then he could never see them again, and I could never tell him news of them. He took my hand, and he said, ‘Please just promise me you’l tell me if they die, Charlotte. Promise me.’" She looked down, her fingers knotting in the material of her dress. "It was such an odd request for a little boy to make. I-I had to say yes."
"So you’ve been looking into the welfare of Will ‘s family?" Jem asked.
"I hired Ragnor fell to do it," Charlotte said. "For the first three years. The fourth year he came back to me and told me that the Herondales had moved.
Edmund Herondale-that’s Will ‘s father-had lost their house gambling. That was all Ragnor was able to glean. The Herondales had been forced to move.
He could find no further trace of them."
"Did you ever tell Will ?" Tessa said.
"No." Charlotte shook her head. "He had made me promise to tell him if they died, that was all. Why add to his unhappiness with the knowledge that they had lost their home? He never mentioned them. I had grown to hope he might have forgotten-"
"He has never forgotten." There was a force in Jem’s words that stopped the nervous movement of Charlotte’s fingers.
"I should not have done it," Charlotte said. "I should never have made that promise. It was a contravention of the Law-"
"When Will truly wants something," said Jem quietly, "when he feels something, he can break your heart."
There was a silence. Charlotte’s lips were tight, her eyes suspiciously bright. "Did he say anything about where he was going when he left Kings Cross?"
"No," said Tessa. "We arrived, and he just up and dusted-sorry, got up and ran," she corrected herself, their blank looks alerting her to the fact that she was using American slang.
"’Up and dusted,’" said Jem. "I like that. Makes it sound like he left a cloud of dust spinning in his wake. He didn’t say anything, no-just elbowed his way through the crowd and was gone. Nearly knocked down Cyril coming to get us."
"None of it makes any sense," Charlotte moaned. "Why on earth would Will ‘s family be living in a house that used to belong to Mortmain? In Yorkshire of all places? This is not where I thought this road would lead. We sought Mortmain and we found the Shades; we sought him again and found Will ‘s family. He encircles us, like that cursed ouroboros that is his symbol."