Disclaimer: characters and situations in this story belong to J. K. Rowling, Gaston Leroux, or Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.

This story contains spoilers for Phantom of the Opera.

~*~

The Dress Rehearsal for the Hannibal

"Monsieur Lefevre, is he there?" Two men, one tall with a pencil-thin moustache, the other squat and round, stood at the door to the manager's office.

Virginia Weasley looked up, surprised, and saw the two vastly different men before her, noted the fine tailoring of their waistcoats, and their commanding ease. "Monsieur Firmin, Monsieur André," she said, curtsying. "Welcome to the Opéra Populaire."

The shorter man waved a hand. "Yes, yes. May we see M. Lefevre, mademoiselle?"

"M. Lefevre is currently overseeing the dress rehearsal for Chalumeau's Hannibal. As you know, it is to open tonight. Shall I fetch him for you?"

"No, you need not trouble yourself," said M. Firmin, with a nod to his partner. "We will find him ourselves."

She curtsied again, and ran off toward the backstage. André and Firmin followed her, much more slowly.

"Charming little place," said Firmin. He inspected closely a portrait hung on the wall, blinking only slightly when it smiled and winked at him. "I rather like it."

André frowned. "If it brings only half the money it promises, I shall be pleased."

Firmin laughed. "Oh, is that the only thing ever on your mind, André? Have you no appreciation of the opera?"

"Indeed not!"

"Very well." Firmin laughed again. "To the money, then. May it come, and in plenty."

They ducked through the curtains hanging over the doors, and entered onto the stage. The chorus' song rang in the great auditorium. At the centre of the stage stood a tall, commanding woman, decked in flowing fabrics. Beside her, a dark man with swept-back hair and battle armour. The chorus behind them sang; the ballet girls danced.

"Mlle Fleur Delacour," a voice beside them said. "Our leading soprano for five seasons now."

"Ah, Lefevre," said Firmin. "We were told you could be found here."

Lefevre sighed, and nodded toward the leading tenor. "M. Roger Davis, principle tenor opposite Mlle Delacour." He led them forward, onto the stage. "Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention, please? As you know, there have been rumours of my impending retirement. I can tell you now that those are all true." He turned to the two men beside him. "It is now my pleasure to present to you Messieurs Richard Firmin and Gilles André, the new owners of the Opéra Populaire."

A scattering of applause rang from across the stage. A few dancers looked toward the men uncertainly.

"Now then," continued M. Lefevre, "will we not continue with the rehearsal? We must show the new owners what the Opéra is capable of. In the mean time," he turned to the new managers, "I trust that you'll not need my further assistance?"

Firmin and André shook their heads.

"Good. I shall be in Frankfurt, should you need to contact me. Good luck."

Lefevre turned on his heels and walked out. The company turned toward the two men.

André shrugged. "You heard the man. Let the rehearsal continue!"

The organist began the intro. The old Mme Weasley, director of the ballet corps, shooed the men back. Mlle Delacour turned to the seats; at the far back, in a balcony, sat a lone figure, watching the performers intently. The chorus sang.

With feasting and dancing and song,

Tonight in celebration

We greet the victorious throng,

Returned to bring—

A backdrop crashed to the stage before the chorus, cutting them off from the leading soprano, who fell to the floor with a cry. Davis sprang forward. "Fleur," he cried, "are you hurt?"

She sniffed. "Oui, I am hurt. I could have been hurt. And until you stop these… accidents from happening, this will not continue!" She stormed offstage. Davis paused only long enough to send the managers a glare, then followed.

"Amateurs!"

"They will be back," said Firmin. "Who is the understudy for Fleur's role?"

Mme Weasley shook her head. "There is none."

"Not one who might sing the part?"

"The production is new, monsieur."

André sighed. "A full house tonight, and we'll have to cancel! Can you believe it, Firmin?"

An interruption parted the ranks of the ballet girls. Virginia Weasley came forward.
"Let Gabrielle Delacour sing it, monsieur."

"Delacour?"

"Fleur's sister. She has been well taught."

Firmin turned his eyes to the girl standing beside Virginia. She was tall, much like her sister, with pale blond hair that fell to her waist. Her eyes were wide with surprise. She looked small, a fragile thing.

"Taught by whom? The lead soprano herself?"

Gabrielle hesitated. "No..."

André interrupted her sharply, snapping his fingers toward the organist. "Enough. From the beginning of the aria, act three, two bars intro, if you please. And you, mam'selle," he turned to Gabrielle. "You will sing."