Jace, glancing around the room, laughed. “Where’s Isabelle?”
A rush of guilty concern hit Clary. She’d forgotten about Simon. She spun around, looking for the familiar skinny shoulders and shock of dark hair. “I don’t see him. Them, I mean.”
“There she is.” Alec spotted his sister and waved her over, looking relieved. “Over here. And watch out for the phouka.”
“Watch out for the phouka?” Jace repeated, glancing toward a thin brown-skinned man in a green paisley vest who eyed Isabelle thoughtfully as she walked by.
“He pinched me when I passed him earlier,” Alec said stiffly. “In a highly personal area.”
“I hate to break it to you, but if he’s interested in your highly personal areas, he probably isn’t interested in your sister’s.”
“Not necessarily,” said Magnus. “Faeries aren’t particular.”
Jace curled his lip scornfully in the warlock’s direction. “You still here?”
Before Magnus could reply, Isabelle was on top of them, looking pink-faced and blotchy and smelling strongly of alcohol. “Jace! Alec! Where have you been? I’ve been looking all over—”
“Where’s Simon?” Clary interrupted.
Isabelle wobbled. “He’s a rat,” she said darkly.
“Did he do something to you?” Alec was full of brotherly concern. “Did he touch you? If he tried anything—”
“No, Alec,” Isabelle said irritably. “Not like that. He’s a rat.”
“She’s drunk,” said Jace, beginning to turn away in disgust.
“I’m not,” Isabelle said indignantly. “Well, maybe a little, but that’s not the point. The point is, Simon drank one of those blue drinks—I told him not to, but he didn’t listen—and he turned into a rat.”
“A rat?” Clary repeated incredulously. “You don’t mean …”
“I mean a rat,” Isabelle said. “Little. Brown. Scaly tail.”
“The Clave isn’t going to like this,” said Alec dubiously. “I’m pretty sure turning mundanes into rats is against the Law.”
“Technically she didn’t turn him into a rat,” Jace pointed out. “The worst she could be accused of is negligence.”
“Who cares about the stupid Law?” Clary screamed, grabbing hold of Isabelle’s wrist. “My best friend is a rat!”
“Ouch!” Isabelle tried to pull her wrist back. “Let go of me!”
“Not until you tell me where he is.” She’d never wanted to smack anyone as much as she wanted to smack Isabelle right at that moment. “I can’t believe you just left him—he’s probably terrified—”
“If he hasn’t been stepped on,” Jace pointed out unhelpfully.
“I didn’t leave him. He ran under the bar,” Isabelle protested, pointing. “Let go! You’re denting my bracelet.”
“Bitch,” Clary said savagely, and flung a surprised-looking Isabelle’s hand back at her, hard. She didn’t stop for a reaction; she was running toward the bar. Dropping to her knees, she peered into the dark space under it. In the moldy-smelling gloom, she thought she could just detect a pair of glinting, beady eyes.
“Simon?” she said, her voice choked. “Is that you?”
Simon-the-rat crept forward slightly, his whiskers trembling. She could see the shape of his small rounded ears, flat against his head, and the sharp point of his nose. She fought down a feeling of revulsion—she’d never liked rats, with their yellowy squared-off teeth all ready to bite. She wished he’d been turned into a hamster.
“It’s me, Clary,” she said slowly. “Are you okay?”
Jace and the others arrived behind her, Isabelle looking more annoyed now than tearful. “Is he under there?” Jace asked curiously.
Clary, still on her hands and knees, nodded. “Shh. You’ll frighten him off.” She pushed her fingers gingerly under the edge of the bar, and wiggled them. “Please come out, Simon. We’ll get Magnus to reverse the spell. It’ll be okay.”
She heard a squeak, and the rat’s pink nose poked out from beneath the bar. With an exclamation of relief, Clary seized the rat in her hands. “Simon! You understood me!”
The rat, huddled in the hollow of her palms, squeaked glumly. Delighted, she hugged him to her chest. “Oh, poor baby,” she crooned, almost as if he really were a pet. “Poor Simon, it’ll be fine, I promise—”
“I wouldn’t feel too sorry for him,” Jace said. “That’s probably the closest he’s ever gotten to second base.”
“Shut up !” Clary glared at Jace furiously, but she did loosen her grip on the rat. His whiskers were trembling, whether in anger or agitation or simple terror, she couldn’t tell. “Get Magnus,” she said sharply. “We have to turn him back.”
“Let’s not be hasty.” Jace was actually grinning, the bastard. He reached toward Simon as if he meant to pet him. “He’s cute like that. Look at his little pink nose.”
Simon bared long yellow teeth at Jace and made a snapping motion. Jace pulled his outstretched hand back. “Izzy, go fetch our magnificent host.”
“Why me?” Isabelle looked petulant.
“Because it’s your fault the mundane’s a rat, idiot,” he said, and Clary was struck by how rarely any of them, other than Isabelle, ever said Simon’s actual name. “And we can’t leave him here.”
“You’d be happy to leave him if it weren’t for her,” Isabelle said, managing to inject the single syllable word with enough venom to poison an elephant. She stalked off, her skirt flouncing around her hips.
“I can’t believe she let you drink that blue drink,” Clary said to rat-Simon. “Now you see what you get for being so shallow.”
Simon squeaked irritably. Clary heard someone chuckle and glanced up to see Magnus leaning over her. Isabelle stood behind him, her expression furious. “Rattus norvegicus,” said Magnus, peering at Simon. “A common brown rat, nothing exotic.”
“I don’t care what kind of rat he is,” Clary said crossly. “I want him turned back.”
Magnus scratched his head thoughtfully, shedding glitter. “No point,” he said.
“That’s what I said.” Jace looked pleased.
“NO POINT?” Clary shouted, so loudly that Simon hid his head under her thumb. “HOW CAN YOU SAY THERE’s NO POINT?”
“Because he’ll turn back on his own in a few hours,” said Magnus. “The effect of the cocktails is temporary. No point working up a transformation spell; it’ll just traumatize him. Too much magic is hard on mundanes; their systems aren’t used to it.”
“I doubt his system is used to being a rat, either,” Clary pointed out. “You’re a warlock; can’t you just reverse the spell?”
Magnus considered. “No,” he said.
“You mean you won’t.”
“Not for free, darling, and you can’t afford me.”
“I can’t take a rat home on the subway either,” Clary said plaintively. “I’ll drop him, or one of the MTA police will arrest me for transporting pests on the transit system.” Simon chirped his annoyance. “Not that you’re a pest, of course.”
A girl who had been shouting by the door was now joined by six or seven others. The sound of angry voices rose above the hum of the party and the strains of the music. Magnus rolled his eyes. “Excuse me,” he said, backing into the crowd, which closed behind him instantly.
Isabelle, wobbling on her sandals, expelled a gusty sigh. “So much for his help.”
“You know,” Alec said, “you could always put the rat in your backpack.”
Clary looked at him hard, but couldn’t find anything wrong with the idea. It wasn’t as if she had a pocket she could have tucked him in. Isabelle’s clothes didn’t allow for pockets; they were too tight. Clary was amazed they allowed for Isabelle.
Shrugging off her pack, she found a hiding place for the small brown rat that had once been Simon, nestled between her rolled-up sweater and her sketchpad. He curled up atop her wallet, looking reproachful. “I’m sorry,” she said miserably.
“Don’t bother,” Jace said. “Why mundanes always insist on taking responsibility for things that aren’t their fault is a mystery to me. You didn’t force that cocktail down his idiotic throat.”
“If it weren’t for me, he wouldn’t have been here at all,” Clary said in a small voice.
“Don’t flatter yourself. He came because of Isabelle.”
Angrily Clary jerked the top of the bag closed and stood up. “Let’s get out of here. I’m sick of this place.”
The tight knot of shouting people by the door turned out to be more vampires, easily recognizable by the pallor of their skin and the dead blackness of their hair. They must dye it, Clary thought. They couldn’t possibly all be naturally dark-haired; and besides, some of them had blond eyebrows. They were loudly complaining about their vandalized motorbikes and the fact that some of their friends were missing and unaccounted for.
“They’re probably drunk and passed out somewhere,” Magnus said, waving long white fingers in a bored manner. “You know how you lot tend to turn into bats and piles of dust when you’ve downed a few too many Bloody Marys.”
“They mix their vodka with real blood,” Jace said in Clary’s ear.
The pressure of his breath made her shiver. “Yes, I got that, thanks.”
“We can’t go around picking up every pile of dust in the place just in case it turns out to be Gregor in the morning,” said a girl with a sulky mouth and painted-on eyebrows.
“Gregor will be fine. I rarely sweep,” soothed Magnus. “I’m happy to send any stragglers back to the hotel come tomorrow—in a car with blacked-out windows, of course.”
“But what about our motorbikes?” said a thin boy whose blond roots showed under his bad dye job. A gold earring in the shape of a stake hung from his left earlobe. “It’ll take hours to fix them.”
“You’ve got until sunrise,” said Magnus, temper visibly fraying. “I suggest you get started.” He raised his voice. “All right, that’s IT! Party’s over! Everybody out!” He waved his arms, shedding glitter.
With a single loud twang the band ceased playing. A drone of loud complaint rose from the partygoers, but they moved obediently toward the doorway. None of them stopped to thank Magnus for the party.
“Come on.” Jace pushed Clary toward the exit. The crowd was dense. She held her backpack in front of her, hands wrapped protectively around it. Someone bumped her shoulder, hard, and she yelped and moved sideways, away from Jace. A hand brushed her backpack. She looked up and saw the vampire with the stake earring grinning at her. “Hey, pretty thing,” he said. “What’s in the bag?”
“Holy water,” said Jace, reappearing beside her as if he’d been conjured up like a genie. A sarcastic blond genie with a bad attitude.
“Oooh, a Shadowhunter,” said the vampire. “Scary.” With a wink he melted back into the crowd.
“Vampires are such prima donnas,” Magnus sighed from the doorway. “Honestly, I don’t know why I have these parties.”
“Because of your cat,” Clary reminded him.
Magnus perked up. “That’s true. Chairman Meow deserves my every effort.” He glanced at her and the tight knot of Shadowhunters just behind her. “You on your way out?”
Jace nodded. “Don’t want to overstay our welcome.”
“What welcome?” Magnus asked. “I’d say it was a pleasure to meet you, but it wasn’t. Not that you aren’t all fairly charming, and as for you—” He dropped a glittery wink at Alec, who looked astounded. “Call me?”
Alec blushed and stuttered and probably would have stood there all night if Jace hadn’t grasped his elbow and hauled him toward the door, Isabelle at their heels. Clary was about to follow when she felt a light tap on her arm; it was Magnus. “I have a message for you,” he said. “From your mother.”
Clary was so surprised she nearly dropped the pack. “From my mother? You mean, she asked you to tell me something?”
“Not exactly,” Magnus said. His feline eyes, slit by their single vertical pupils like fissures in a green-gold wall, were serious for once. “But I knew her in a way that you didn’t. She did what she did to keep you out of a world that she hated. Her whole existence, the running, the hiding—the lies, as you called them—were to keep you safe. Don’t waste her sacrifices by risking your life. She wouldn’t want that.”
“She wouldn’t want me to save her?”
“Not if it meant putting yourself in danger.”
“But I’m the only person who cares what happens to her—”
“No,” Magnus said. “You aren’t.”
Clary blinked. “I don’t understand. Is there—Magnus, if you know something—”
He cut her off with brutal precision. “And one last thing.” His eyes flicked toward the door, through which Jace, Alec, and Isabelle had disappeared. “Keep in mind that when your mother fled from the Shadow World, it wasn’t the monsters she was hiding from. Not the warlocks, the wolf-men, the Fair Folk, not even the demons themselves. It was them. It was the Shadowhunters.”
They were waiting for her outside the warehouse. Jace, hands in pockets, was leaning against the stairway railing and watching as the vampires stalked around their broken motorcycles, cursing and swearing. He had a faint smile on his face. Alec and Isabelle stood a little way off. Isabelle was wiping at her eyes, and Clary felt a wave of irrational anger—Isabelle barely knew Simon. This wasn’t her disaster. Clary was the one who had the right to be carrying on, not the Shadowhunter girl.