Magnus hadn't planned to return to London so soon. He'd hardly been in America for a year and had just begun exploring her charms when he'd received the message. It had been his intention to wait at least a century before considering a trip to London so that time would have begun to blur the edges of memories of a city that had been the setting of so many conflicting events. He'd loved and lost, but gained friendships he'd never anticipated. No, not friendship, but kinship, if Theresa Herondale nee Gray's message was any indication of his place among her family.
It had lacked the usual melodrama he associated with Nephilim, which had amused Magnus enough to keep him from dismissing the invitation outright. The heavy cardstock seemed too formal for a fire message, but it didn't surprise him that Tessa had followed mundane tradition despite the unusual method of delivery.
It seemed that she was embracing the role that Charlotte would soon be giving over to the newlywed couple, making plans for the London Shadowhunters' holiday with unexpected enthusiasm if not the grandeur the Institute was known for. Instead of holding the sort of ball that had marked previous the Christmas, Tessa had opted for a small, intimate gathering of the London based Nephilim and their families.
Beneath the elegantly written words describing the festivities there was another, more personal message written in the same precise hand.
Christmas should be celebrated with family. You hinted that we might be family of sorts and I would like for this to be true. We want to see you again, Magnus. Please say yes.
It was impossible for him to ignore Tessa's words or her gentle determination to make that suggestion true. And, if he was being honest with himself, a skill that Ragnor swore was beyond Magnus, there were times when he yearned for the familial bonds that he'd never had even when his parents were alive.
Scribbling off a note promising he would be there on the requested date, he started a whirlwind spree of gift shopping and planning to compensate for a few weeks spent abroad. He was building a reputation in New York, being called the 'High Warlock' by some of the Downworlders in the city. He couldn't let that work be wasted, not when the title meant that those who hired his services paid extravagantly for his talents. A few well-placed comments about the alignment of the stars quickly became a firestorm of rumors that were far better than any excuse he could have thought up for his absence during Christmas and would only improve his standing among the magic users in the city.
He left Church with one of the New York Shadowhunters, a brazen young woman who had had the audacity to attempt to pet the Persian when Magnus had brought the cat with him while introducing himself to the city's Clave, hoping that being around Shadowhunters again might improve Church's mood. Magnus wasn't certain if the cat had taken a fancy to the Nephilim or the Institute, but for the first time since Jem had 'died', Church had seemed interested in the world. If the cat still seemed pleased with his new residence when Magnus returned, he might 'forget' to pick him up and let Church stay with the Nephilim.
Once he was certain that the feline would be well cared for, he created a Portal to the London Institute, barely making it through the gateway with his luggage following behind him like a well trained, albeit levitating, hound before he was embraced by Tessa herself.
For a moment, he was completely bewildered, his trunks and satchel clattering to the floor as he belatedly remembered that he should return that startling sign of affection. His arms went 'round her and she hugged him fiercely, as if she were afraid that if she didn't hold onto him, he might fade into the ether. Her gray eyes were bright with joy as she released him; giving him a warm smile that Magnus realized was shared by Will who was waiting patiently for his own chance to greet him.
"Happy Christmas, Magnus," Will announced; looking far too amused by the situation to not tease the warlock about it later. "Welcome home."
# # #
But no matter how good the intentions, Magnus had always been the outsider, separated by whom and what he was, not having ties to the people around him despite the efforts of his hosts. It wasn't until Tessa had invited him into the Institute, into her home, that he truly understood what it might be like to be part of a family. Despite the reservations that he would deny until judgment day, he had been welcomed as if he truly were Tessa's kin.
Even the Lightwoods were civil, or as civil as those pompous boys could be; only glaring occasionally when they forgot that he wasn't simply a Downworlder, but a favored guest. He still pretended that he couldn't tell them apart, which didn't improve their dispositions, but did wonders to his own until Tessa realized his game and commented that eventually he would get his comeuppance for his behavior.
He didn't believe her for a moment, but he did apologize for his actions and made sure to only annoy them when Tessa wasn't nearby.
The entire situation was strange and wonderful and something Magnus was certain he would never experience again no matter how determined Tessa might be for them to truly be a family. At least he was certain of it until Christmas morning and they'd all met in the parlor to exchange gifts.
The room was decorated differently than what Magnus had seen during his first Christmas at the Institute. The mundane traditions that Tessa and the Herondale siblings had grown up with had been incorporated into the festivities. The space was festooned with the mundanes' favored greens and red, wreaths and stockings hanging from the mantle adding festivity compared to the previous year's solemnity.
A little well planned magic had allowed for a tree far impressive than what the Nephilim would have managed to maneuver into the space on their own to be the focal point of the celebration. The creative use of Henry's inventiveness and Magnus' own innate talents allowed the candles placed on its boughs to safely glow in jeweled tones that added a sparkle of brightness to the parlor. Everywhere around the room were signs warmth and light, friendship and affection, right down the presents that were piled at the foot of the evergreen.
Some were practical. Others were fanciful. Gifts from the New World to cheer the Londoners and familiar luxuries from the Continent that Magnus had forgotten that he missed. Since he'd expected nothing from the Shadowhunters, the gifts were far more valuable than any of them would ever know.
But the one that Magnus found priceless was bundled up in plain paper with a green satin bow. Each member of the household received a similar package, handed to them by a faintly blushing Tessa who explained that it had been a family tradition to exchange handmade gifts and she had wished for the custom to continue.
Inside each box was a scarf made of soft, warm wool. They had the look of something made to use up the last scraps of yarn left from other endeavors. And, considering Tessa's childhood, that had probably been what those earlier gifts had been made from.
They were bright and whimsical and completely heartfelt.
The ladies' scarves were vivid shades of lavender and rose accompanied by pale pinks and blues that had been originally intended for the nursery. The male Nephilim received gifts in the traditional Shadowhunter black with some bright color to add cheer.
His own - Tessa had made one for him as if he truly were both family and her friend - was beige wool striped with copper, black and gold. The thoughtfulness of that simple gift was completely unexpected. To be treated as if they truly were kin...
Running the scarf through his hands, he quirked an eyebrow at Tessa as his hands stilled on a band of gold, focusing on that detail instead of the startling ache that caught at his chest. Gold, the Nephilim color for love.
There was a hint of understanding in her eyes that Magnus rarely saw even among Downworlders and never in one that was as young as Tessa. Then empathy turned to amusement and her lips twitched into a wry smile as she carefully ignored more serious matters. "I thought that the gold might match your eyes."
It would, actually. The colors would be striking even if the scarf would clash with his usual attire. Which made him love it all the more. Sweeping the soft knit around his neck, he stood; striking a pose that he hoped would look dashing, but resulted in laughter that flowed warmly throughout the room. "Thank you, Tessa. It'll be my favorite accessory."
Ignoring his theatrics, she moved from her chair to give him a sisterly hug as she repeated a variation of Will's earlier greeting when Magnus had first arrived at the Institute. "You're welcome, Magnus. Happy Christmas. Welcome home."
# # #
"Just a moment, Darling." As he spoke, he looped the soft wool around his neck, adjusting the knit so that the stripes would look perfect, glancing up to meet Alec's eyes in the silvered glass... blue eyes that were bright with amused exasperation at either the pet name or Magnus' tendency to become fixated on his wardrobe.
"Darling?" Alexander's lips twitched faintly, fighting back a smile as he moved to stand beside him, wrapping a black scarf around his neck, tying it in an efficient knot, more concerned with warmth than making a statement. Black instead of the blue Magnus had forced on the Nephilim during one of their fights.
That had been one of the small changes that had slowly evolved as they had begun to rebuild their relationship. Occasionally Alec needed a well-meaning shove to move past the boundaries of the life he'd known at the New York Institute, but now Magnus knew he had pushed too often, causing Alec to make some choices that the young Shadowhunter might not have been ready for.
Not that Alec seemed to regret many of them. Not the ones that had improved their relationship, at least. The others were slowly being forgiven as they began anew.
It had been year of changes and learning to look past assumptions and be willing to make compromises... compromises like the ridiculously soft, black scarf that Magnus had given Alec when the weather had started to turn cold.
That simple gift chosen because Magnus had thought Alec would like it had been far more important than Magnus had expected, just as Tessa's gift had been over a century earlier. The scarf seemed to show Alec that they were making progress and his opinions mattered. He'd become more comfortable with himself and their relationship with each passing day. Magnus had become more willing to tell Alec about his past. It pained him to do so, but not as much as it would to lose Alexander again.
Shaking off his reverie, he turned away from the mirror to give his lover a flirtatious grin. "Yes, 'Darling'. Do you like it?"
A small part of Magnus expected his boyfriend to be annoyed by the endearment like he would have during their first attempt at being together, chiding himself for being a fool when Alec slowly smiled in return. "I think I can live with that one."
"Good. Then we can be off."
Or they could if Alec hadn't caught his hand in Tessa's scarf, looking at it curiously before meeting Magnus' eyes. "This isn't like the stuff you normally wear."
For some unfathomable reason, he flushed at the comment, pleased and almost embarrassed by how well his boyfriend knew him. "My sister made it for me."
Alec began to speak, and then paused, his confusion obvious despite his attempt to conceal his reaction. "But I thought that you didn't have any family." It wasn't quite a question, but one was implied. The Shadowhunter might be learning patience in regards to Magnus' past, but knowing the circumstances of his birth and his childhood had to make the idea of Magnus having a sister almost unbelievable.
There was also an undercurrent of uncertainty beneath those words, but none of the distrust that Alec would have lashed out with a year ago. Instead, he sounded hurt, something that Magnus could not abide.
"The sister of my heart, Alec. A young warlock who is as dear to me as Isabelle is to you." With those words, confusion turned to acceptance, but he knew that eventually Alec would want to ask about Tessa, but for now, the rest of his questions would be left unspoken unless Magnus encouraged his curiosity. Patience was a lesson Alec struggled with, but he tried more than Magnus had ever thought was possible for his boyfriend.
"I would have mentioned her before, but she has very unique talents that would have made her a tempting target for Valentine or Sebastian. I couldn't put her through that, Alexander." A look of understanding and sorrow darkened Alec's blue eyes and he knew that the young Nephilim was thinking of Max. "Someday, I'd like you to meet her."
"Someday?" Alec asked, his sorrow replaced by a hint of the old doubts that had driven them apart, proving that some lessons weren't as easy as the ones that had involved Alec's wardrobe. They both knew that a year ago that answer would have meant never, but now... now Magnus realized he wanted Alec to meet his family.
"Soon." He paused, thinking of the Institute in London done up in velvet ribbons and evergreens... and Tessa's bright, welcoming smiles that had made him feel like family. "This Christmas," he amended. "If you don't mind and Tessa agrees. I'll ask Catarina as well. It's time for you to meet the people from my past that I want to remember."
Alec flushed at that, looking pleased at those words and reminding Magnus of the first time they'd kissed. For a moment he was tempted to recreate that moment but he had the feeling that Isabelle wouldn't appreciate it if they didn't show up after Alec had promised that they'd meet her in the park. But even knowing how she'd react if they were late, he couldn't resist brushing his lips against Alec's, making a surprised sound when his boyfriend seemed to have a different idea.
Catching his free hand in the belt loops on Magnus' jeans, Alec tugged him close to deepen the kiss, leaving him too dazed to notice that they had somehow made their way through the open door until they broke apart to try to catch their breath.
"Will kill us if we're late." Letting out a ragged sigh, Alec reluctantly untangled his fingers from Magnus' jeans so that he could lock up behind them.
"I love you."
The words had been spoken between them countless times, but they always made Alec's eyes light up until they were summery blue, his smile making him breathtaking in a way that Magnus hadn't seen before he'd met Alexander. "I love you too, Magnus."
In all his centuries of life, there had been no one else who had seemed so joyful at simply being with him, reminding him of thoughts he'd had before Camille had almost destroyed their happiness. One mortal life... the idea had scared him before he'd met Alexander, but now that measure of time seemed perfect. Perhaps after the holiday, he would discuss the matter with his chosen family and see if the ladies would agree to help him with the spell.
Catching Alec's hand, he led him to the stairwell, telling himself that such decisions could be considered later. Today, he had every intention of enjoying each moment of his second chance, sharing his present and his future with the person he loved.