Disclaimer: I do not own POTO.

"Ricevete, oh padroncina,
queste rose e questi fior,
che abbiam colti stamattina
per mostrarvi il nostro amor.
Siamo tante contadine,
e siam tutte poverine,
ma quel poco che rechiamo
ve lo diamo di buon cor."

Sang the chorus girls as they filled the stage, dressed as peasants, bearing flowers for Carlotta, who played an almost pompous version of the Countess. The Opera Garnier was giving a performance of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro to a well-receptive house that laughed at all the right places, although many women still used their opera glasses to peer at their rivals in the other boxes instead of the singers onstage.

The girl who played Barbarina stumbled forward and began the recitative:

"Queste sono, madama,
le ragazze del loco
che il poco ch'han vi vengono ad offrire,
e vi chiedon perdon del loro ardire."

In his brother's box, Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny, smiled at the girl. Christine Daae hadn't changed that much since they had last parted so many years ago at Perros. It wasn't very fair to say that, for she had indeed changed into such a beautiful young woman. He hadn't been too surprised to find her at the esteemed highly Opera Garnier, considering that her voice had been exceptional since she was young. What surprised him was how she seemed to avoid him. He followed her backstage after the performances while his brother, Philippe, the Comte, was having a little soiree with the opera's prima ballerina La Sorelli, his mistress. Each time he found her, she would run off. Later that night, he would find himself lying awake in bed wondering where his Little Lotte had gone.

The performance went on, and when Christine came out to take her quick bow at the curtain call, Raoul leaped to his feet and applauded. Philippe pulled him back down, giving him the scolding look that warned him not to behave in such a way again.

Just as he did every night that he attended the opera, Raoul stalked backstage, looking for Christine. He peered down one of the more deserted corridors, and was surprised to see the young soprano, her cloak pulled tightly around her and her hat secured on her head, ready to go home for the evening.

"Christine!" he called to her. She rapidly turned her head away. "Christine!" he called again, charging down the hall. An old man hobbled up and got in his way.

The man said, "I'm sorry, Monsieur, but you can't go down there."

"But all-"

"I'm sorry, Monsieur. You can't go down that hall." Raoul charged ahead and, though the old man put up a bit of resistance, he easily pushed his way through.

Raoul called down the hallway, "Christine!" The girl picked up her pace.

"Monsieur!" the old man shouted at Raoul.

"Christine," Raoul said, nearly out of breath, as he took hold of Christine's arm.

"Monsieur, what do you want?" she asked, a terrified expression spreading across her face.

"Christine, it's me, Raoul."

"I don't know any-"

"I am the little boy who rescued your scarf from the sea."

She murmured, "I don't remember…" It wasn't difficult to see that she was lying.

"Perhaps this will help you," he said, planting a kiss on her lips. Christine's cheeks turned crimson.

"I must go," she cried. She fled, looking behind her shoulder from time to time. Raoul debated going after her, but decided that it was best to let her be and sauntered off to find his brother. That left the old man, standing in the middle of the ill-lit hallway. Overcome with panic and fear, he made a dash for the door just as Christine had, but the passage plunged into darkness.

"Leaving so soon Buquet?" a voice asked from behind him, each syllable laced with pure rage. Buquet whipped around and reached out, trying to punch the voice's owner. The voice came from the beside him this time, "You failed. I don't like failures."

"I couldn't control him," Buquet pleaded, trying once again to punch the invisible voice, which kept moving.

"That's not an excuse! I told you to keep the Chagny boy away from Christine. Is that too hard for you to comprehend?"

"Give me a second chance."

"There are no second chances." The infamous rope slipped around Buquet's neck, and he was dead in a flash.

The next day, the body of Joseph Buquet was found hanging in the third cellar, a warning to all of the Opera Ghost's accomplices would ever fail him.

A/N: Please R&R! Come on, you know you want to click the little blue button...