The Dark Princess, alone on the roof, spinning and laughing madly, tossing handfuls of torn drawings out into the grey Brighton air.
Jeremy hadn't said a word about what had happened to him when he stumbled out of the crowd and nearly collided with the buffet. But he hadn't needed to. Sarah had taken one look at the dumbfounded expression on his face, the sparkle in his eyes, and the glitter on his shoulders, and knew exactly what had occurred.
"I see you've met my would-be boyfriend."
In the end, he hadn't been able to stop her. Stall for time, yes, but stop her? Not a chance. And even though he knew, deep down, that Helena had to fight this battle herself, he couldn't help but feel like a failure. What kind of father couldn't protect his own daughter?
They'd walked home in silence, ignoring the occasional carload of costumed revelers on their way to another party. He didn't bring it up, and neither did she, but some kind of understanding seemed to pass between them. Nothing more needed to be said.
He'd spent too much time at the hospital, worried that Sarah would be frightened of going into surgery alone, and now he'd arrived home too late. He'd known as soon as he walked through the door. There was something in the air, some indefinable quality missing. The whole world seemed slightly staler and slightly greyer.
He'd taken the stairs three at a time, only pausing to glance into Helena's room to confirm his suspicions. The last few blocks of the city were, as he'd feared, gone. Her walls were drab and featureless.
Apart from a framed drawing of a circle, which displayed in its depths a face. It wasn't smirking now.
That night, before they went to bed, Sarah'd handed him a little red book. She didn't explain anything. She didn't really need to. The gold-embossed title said it all.
Where would she be? Where would she go to hide from him? He knew the answer as soon as he asked the question. On the roof. This anti-Helena was more like his daughter than perhaps she realized, and Helena was always on the roof when she needed to get away. Up there in the open air, where she felt freer, scribbling away on the concrete with a piece of coloured chalk –
Jeremy froze in place as the idea slammed into him.
He didn't know how long he had. He just ran, flat-out, up the stairs to the roof access door. He was winded by the time he got to the top – he really needed to get out and exercise more; since the circus had gone under he'd really gotten out of shape – but between gasps, he saw that the door was open. Just beyond it, spinning and laughing like someone who'd truly lost touch with reality, was the girl who was so much like his daughter.
He nearly bolted out after her, but something stopped him, some Sarah-voice whispering in the back of his mind. No. Helena had to do this by herself. She had to win, had to know that she could win. That they had no power over her. That wouldn't happen if he charged in to rescue her. It was time to let his daughter stand on her own two feet.
But that didn't mean he couldn't give her a helping hand.
The anti-Helena finally stopped spinning, her laughter winding down. She started towards the roof access door.
And Jeremy shut it in her face.
He wasn't sure what was happening outside. There were sounds, unearthly screeches of rage, and then everything went quiet. He still didn't dare open the door, though, and so he stood awkwardly in the hall, wondering when it would be safe to come out.
When he finally opened the door again, his daughter was lying in the middle of the roof. He knew in an instant, without a doubt, that it was Helena, his Helena. And that everything was going to be all right.
They only spoke about it once. Jeremy asked if the goblins had been responsible for their disastrous courtship, and Sarah had laughed and answered, "Of course!" He'd asked, then, if she ever missed it. Ever missed having magic in her life.
She'd just kissed him, long enough to take his breath away. And when she pulled back, she'd answered, "That's magic enough for me."
AN: I reread this last night and felt it deserved a conclusion.