Simon blinked. He wasn't sure what he'd expected, but it wasn't this. A tall man with auburn hair, neither young nor old-an ageless face, inhuman and cold. Broad-shouldered, dressed in a well-cut black suit and shining black shoes. Around each wrist was a dark red groove, the marks of some sort of binding, rope or metal, that had cut into the skin over many years. In his eyes were leaping red flames.
He spoke. "Who summons Azazel?" His voice was like metal grinding on metal.
"I do." Magnus firmly shut the book he was holding. "Magnus Bane."
Azazel craned his head slowly toward Magnus. His head seemed to swivel unnaturally on his neck, like the head of a snake. "Warlock," he said. "I know who you are."
Magnus raised his eyebrows. "You do?"
"Summoner. Binder. Destroyer of the demon Marbas. Son of-"
"Now," said Magnus quickly. "There's no need to go into all of that."
"But there is." Azazel sounded reasonable, even amused. "If it is infernal assistance you require, why not summon your father?"
Alec was looking at Magnus with his mouth open. Simon felt for him. He didn't think any of them had ever assumed that Magnus even knew who his father was, beyond that he had been a demon who had tricked his mother into believing he was her husband. Alec clearly knew no more about it than the rest of them, which, Simon imagined, was probably something he wasn't too happy about.
"My father and I are not on the best of terms," said Magnus. "I would prefer not to involve him."
Azazel raised his hands. "As you say, Master. You hold me within the seal. What do you demand?"
Magnus said nothing, but it was clear from the expression on Azazel's face that the warlock was speaking to him silently, mind to mind. The flames leaped and danced in the demon's eyes, like eager children listening to a story. "Clever Lilith," the demon said at last. "To raise the boy from death, and secure his life by binding him to someone whom you cannot bear to kill. She was always better at manipulating human emotions than most of the rest of us. Perhaps because she was something close to human once."
"Is there a way?" Magnus sounded impatient. "To break the bond between them?"
Azazel shook his head. "Not without killing them both."
"Then, is there a way to harm Sebastian only, without hurting Jace?" It was Isabelle, eager; Magnus shot her a quelling look.
"Not with any weapon I might create, or have at my disposal," said Azazel. "I can craft only weapons whose alliance is demonic. A bolt of lightning from the hand of an angel, perhaps, might burn away what was evil in Valentine's son and either break their tie or cause it to become more benevolent in nature. If I might make a suggestion..."
"Oh," said Magnus, narrowing his cat's eyes, "please do."
"I can think of a simple solution that will separate the boys, keep yours alive, and neutralize the danger of the other one. And I will ask very little of you in return."
"You are my servant," Magnus said. "If you wish to leave this pentagram, you will do what I ask, and not demand favors in return."
Azazel hissed, and fire curled from his lips. "If I am not bound here, then I am bound there. It makes little difference to me."
"'For this is Hell, nor am I out of it,'" said Magnus, with the air of someone quoting an old saying.
Azazel showed a metallic smile. "You may not be proud like old Faustus, warlock, but you are impatient. I am sure my willingness to remain in this pentagram will outlast your desire to keep watch over me inside it."
"Oh, I don't know," Magnus said. "I've always been fairly bold where decorating is concerned, and having you here does add that little extra touch of something to the room."
"Magnus," Alec said, clearly not thrilled at the idea of an immortal demon taking up residence in his boyfriend's loft.
"Jealous, little Shadowhunter?" Azazel grinned at Alec. "Your warlock is not my type, and besides, I would hardly want to anger his-"
"Enough," Magnus said. "Tell us what the 'little' thing you want in return for your plan is."
Azazel templed his hands-hard workman's hands, the color of blood, topped with black nails. "One happy memory," he said. "From each of you. Something to amuse me while I am bound like Prometheus to his rock."
"A memory?" said Isabelle in astonishment. "You mean it would vanish out of our heads? We wouldn't be able to recall it anymore?"
Azazel squinted at her through the flames. "What are you, little one? A Nephilim? Yes, I would take your memory and it would become mine. You would no longer know that it had happened to you. Although, please do avoid giving me memories of demons you've slaughtered under the light of the moon. Not the sort of thing I enjoy. No, I want these memories to be... personal." He grinned, and his teeth gleamed like an iron portcullis.
"I'm old," Magnus said. "I have many memories. I would give one up, if needed. But I cannot speak for the rest of you. No one should be forced to give up something like this."
"I'll do it," Isabelle said immediately. "For Jace."
"I will too, of course," said Alec, and then it was Simon's turn. He thought suddenly of Jace, cutting his wrist and giving him his blood in the tiny room on Valentine's boat. Risking his own life for Simon's. It might have been for Clary's sake at its heart, but it was still a debt. "I'm in."
"Good," Magnus said. "All of you, try to think of happy memories. They must be genuinely happy. Something that gives you pleasure in the recollection." He shot a sour glance at the smug demon in the pentagram.
"I'm ready," Isabelle said. She was standing with her eyes closed, her back straight as if braced for pain. Magnus moved toward her and laid his fingers against her forehead, murmuring softly.
Alec watched Magnus with his sister, his mouth tight, then shut his eyes. Simon shut his own too, hastily, and tried to summon up a happy memory-something to do with Clary? But so many of his memories of her were tinged now with his worry over her well-being. Something from when they were very young? An image swam to the forefront of his mind-a hot summer day at Coney Island, him on his father's shoulders, Rebecca running behind them, trailing a handful of balloons. Looking up at the sky, trying to find shapes in the clouds, and the sound of his mother's laughter. No, he thought, not that. I don't want to lose that-
There was a cool touch on his forehead. He opened his eyes and saw Magnus lowering his hand. Simon blinked at him, his mind suddenly blank. "But I wasn't thinking of anything," he protested.
Magnus's cat eyes were sad. "Yes, you were."
Simon glanced around the room, feeling a little dizzy. The others looked the same, as if they were awakening from a strange dream; he caught Isabelle's eye, the dark flutter of her lashes, and wondered what she had thought about, what happiness she had given away.
A low rumble from the center of the pentagram drew his gaze from Izzy. Azazel stood, as close to the edge of the pattern as he could, a slow growl of hunger coming from his throat. Magnus turned and looked at him, a look of disgust on his face. His hand was closed into a fist, and something seemed to be shining between his fingers as if he held a witchlight rune-stone. He turned and flung it, fast and sideways, into the center of the pentagram. Simon's vampire vision tracked it. It was a bead of light that expanded as it flew, expanded into a circle holding multiple images. Simon saw a piece of azure ocean, the corner of a satin dress that belled out as its wearer spun, a glimpse of Magnus's face, a boy with blue eyes-and then Azazel opened his arms and the circle of images vanished into his body, like a stray piece of trash sucked into the fuselage of a jet plane.
Azazel gasped. His eyes, which had been darting flickers of red flame, blazed like bonfires now, and his voice crackled when he spoke. "Ahhhh. Delicious."
Magnus spoke sharply. "Now for your side of the bargain."
The demon licked his lips. "The solution to your problem is this. You release me into the world, and I take Valentine's son and bring him living into Hell. He will not die, and therefore your Jace will live, but he will have left this world behind, and slowly their connection will burn away. You will have your friend back."
"And then what?" Magnus said slowly. "We release you into the world, and then you return and let yourself be bound again?"
Azazel laughed. "Of course not, foolish warlock. The price for the favor is my freedom."
"Freedom?" Alec spoke, sounding incredulous. "A Prince of Hell, set free in the world? We already gave you our memories-"
"The memories were the price you paid to hear my plan," said Azazel. "My freedom is what you will pay to have my plan enacted."
"That is a cheat, and you know it," said Magnus. "You ask for the impossible."
"So do you," said Azazel. "By all rights your friend is lost to you forever. 'For if a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond, he shall not break his word.' And by the terms of Lilith's spell, their souls are bound, and both agreed."
"Jace would never agree-," Alec began.
"He said the words," said Azazel. "Of his own will or under compunction, it does not matter. You are asking me to sever a bond only Heaven can sever. But Heaven will not help you; you know that as well as I. That is why men summon demons and not angels, is it not? This is the price you pay for my intervention. If you do not want to pay it, you must learn to accept what you've lost."
Magnus's face was pale and tight. "We will converse among ourselves and discuss whether your offer is acceptable. In the meantime I banish you." He waved his hand, and Azazel vanished, leaving behind the smell of charred wood.
The four people in the room stared at one another incredulously. "What he is asking for," Alec said finally, "it isn't possible, is it?"
"Theoretically anything is possible," said Magnus, staring ahead as if into an abyss. "But to loose a Greater Demon on the world-not just a Greater Demon, a Prince of Hell, second only to Lucifer himself-the destruction he could wreak-"
"Isn't it possible," Isabelle said, "that Sebastian could wreak just as much destruction?"
"Like Magnus said," Simon put in bitterly, "anything's possible."
"There could be almost no greater crime in the eyes of the Clave," said Magnus. "Whoever loosed Azazel upon the world would be a wanted criminal."
"But if it were to destroy Sebastian..." Isabelle began.
"We don't have proof Sebastian's plotting anything," said Magnus. "For all we know, all he wants is to settle down in a nice country house in Idris."
"With Clary and Jace?" Alec said incredulously.
Magnus shrugged. "Who knows what he wants with them? Maybe he's just lonely."
"No way did he kidnap Jace off that roof because he's desperately in need of a bromance," said Isabelle. "He's planning something."
They all looked at Simon. "Clary's trying to find out what. She needs some time. And don't say 'We don't have time,'" he added. "She knows that."
Alec raked a hand through his dark hair. "Fine, but we just wasted a whole day. A day we didn't have. No more stupid ideas." His voice was uncharacteristically sharp.
"Alec," Magnus said. He put a hand on his boyfriend's shoulder; Alec was standing still, staring angrily at the floor. "Are you okay?"
Alec looked at him. "Who are you again?"
Magnus gave a little gasp; he looked-for the first time Simon could remember-actually unnerved. It lasted only a moment, but it was there. "Alexander," he said.
"Too soon to joke about the happy memory thing, I take it," Alec said.
"You think?" Magnus's voice soared. Before he could say anything else, the door swung open and Maia and Jordan came in. Their cheeks were red from the cold, and-Simon saw with a small start-Maia was wearing Jordan's leather jacket.
"We just came from the station," she said excitedly. "Luke hasn't woken up yet, but it looks like he's going to be all right-" She broke off, looking around at the still-glimmering pentagram, the clouds of black smoke, and the scorched patches on the floor. "Okay, what have you guys been doing?"
With the help of a glamour and Jace's ability to swing himself one-armed up onto a curving old bridge, Clary and Jace escaped the Italian police without being arrested. Once they had stopped running, they collapsed against the side of a building, laughing, side by side, their hands interlinked. Clary felt a moment of pure sharp happiness and had to bury her head against Jace's shoulder, reminding herself, in a hard internal voice, that this wasn't him, before her laughter trailed off into silence.
Jace seemed to take her sudden quiet as a sign that she was tired. He held her hand lightly as they made their way back to the street they'd started out from, the narrow canal with bridges on both ends. In between them Clary recognized the blank, featureless townhouse they'd left. A shudder ran over her.
"Cold?" Jace pulled her toward him and kissed her; he was so much taller than she was that he either had to bend down or pick her up; in this case he did the latter, and she suppressed a gasp as he swung her up and through the wall of the house. Setting her down, he kicked a door-which had appeared suddenly behind them-shut with a bang, and was about to shuck off his jacket when there was the sound of a stifled chuckle.
Clary pulled away from Jace as lights blazed up around them. Sebastian sat on the sofa, his feet up on the coffee table. His fair hair was tousled; his eyes were glossy black. He wasn't alone, either. There were two girls there, one on either side of him. One was fair, a little scantily dressed, in a glittering short skirt and spangled top. She had her hand splayed out across Sebastian's chest. The other was younger, softer-looking, with black hair cut short, a red velvet band around her head, and a lacy black dress.