Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters, nor am in any way affiliated with them, except for my intense love of them.

People were used to two golden- haired children running around the village and coast. People were used to their light laughter echoing merrily over the cobblestones in the road, and the rocky cliffs of the coast. Sure, there were other children who did the same, but name of them possessed quite as much élan and vitality as the two children.

People didn't acknowledge them overly much: a smile perhaps, a story when begged of one by two pairs of brilliantly blue eyes, or some whispered gossip over the fence when hanging laundry out to dry. People knew them simply as Raoul and Christine.

Sometimes the more knowledgeable housewives would whisper a bit more over the fence: that sweet, darling little Raoul with his easy charm and gallant manners was a vicomte- the younger brother of the Comte de Chagny! It was not altogether surprising, but when one studied Christine's background... it was. Sweet and pretty Christine, with the voice of an angel and an ever- ready smile, was merely the daughter of a violinist... and a rather humble one at that.

It caused a bit of a scandal at first: a vicomte whose elder brother was reported as amazingly wealthy... running about the village with the daughter of a poor violinist! It was an amazing thing to think of to the general populace of the village. But no one seemed to care much, wrapped up in secret smiles at the two golden- haired children scampering about the country-side as light and free as butterflies.

Some of the more romantic ones gushed and whispered of a forbidden romance when the two were older. It was the sort of stuff to occupy thought in idle hours, but no more then mere speculation, not to be uttered other then across laundry lines and certainly not to be uttered in polite society, or in the company of those who were deemed more privileged and advanced then themselves.

None the less, people enjoyed speculating. And love was almost certainly there, at least to the more observant occupants of Brittany. It grew very quietly, tentatively- it was pure and sweet and went wholly unnoticed by the two children. But it was still there, and it still grew, like a rosebud in the midst of a snowstorm, patiently waiting for the chance to blossom.

There was one particular summer day when Raoul and Christine where running around in a bit of shady meadow by the shore. It was sunny and warm out, so the two children ended up collapsing in the shade of a nearby tree and studying the clouds.

"That one looks like... a castle," Raoul decided, leaning against the tree with his hands behind his head.

"I think it looks more like a cliff," Christine chimed in happily, shading her sparkling blue eyes with her hand. "Like the one we explored yesterday." She scanned the sky and pointed to another cloud. "Oh! That one looks like a ring!"

"A ring," Raoul repeated thoughtfully, examining the sunlight as it streamed through the leaves of the trees.

"Yes, a ring!" Christine reiterated, with a quick smile at Raoul. "Why? What do you think it looks like?"

"A ring."


Raoul paused in his observation of the leaves to examine the sky once again. "The cloud just reminded me of something I saw once."

Christine poked at a grass stain on her skirt. "What was it?"

Raoul shifted slightly, so he could look at his friend. "I have two sisters. They were both married on the same day, and they had the same ceremony at church. It was very nice and everything... but I remember that when they had been married, they were both wearing rings. Philippe said that it... it signified that my sisters were both grown- up and married." Raoul paused again, and contemplated the sky. "I was just thinking... do you think we'd have to get married?"

"I shan't," Christine declared, sitting up and smoothing out her grass- stained skirts importantly. "I shall become a famous opera singer and support myself and Papa. I heard that actresses aren't allowed to be married while they work at Opera houses, so I just won't marry." Then she tilted her head to one side, considering. "Will you, Raoul?"

Raoul turned away from his rapt contemplation of the bit of sky above him. "I don't know. I want to be a sailor, to go to new places...to travel the world and have adventures. I think that it might be awfully hard to do that while I'm married. I'd have to stay at home and help run the chateau, like my sisters' husbands do." Then he fell silent a moment more, thinking. "I suppose I could get married, like my uncle did, and after all, he was a sea-man... but he died while he was away at sea, and made my aunt very unhappy. I wouldn't want to make someone unhappy."

Christine shook her head, her golden curls swinging prettily and catching the light, as if she had some sort of halo about her head. "I wouldn't want to make anyone unhappy either." There was a slight pause as the two looked back up at the sky, which happened, at that point in time, to be rather cloudless. "Raoul... suppose you did have to marry someone."

Raoul pulled his hands out from underneath his head and attempted to straighten his vest, which, during the course of the day, had become jam and dirt stained, and had lost a button. "If I did, I wouldn't mind marrying you. It might be nice to live together with your best friend."

Christine smiled prettily. "Well, if you asked, Raoul, I suppose I'd marry you. But not for a while. I want to sing onstage first."

Raoul nodded amiably. "And I want to be a sailor first. It all works out nicely, don't you think?"

Christine laughed delightedly. "Yes, it does!" Then she fell silent once more, in spellbound concentration at the grass- stain that had managed to mysteriously materialize in her apron and skirt. Then, upon some reflection, Christine looked up and inquired, "Raoul... what if we can't?"

Raoul looked a bit confused. "Can't what?"

"Can't get married. I mean, we wouldn't get married to anyone else anyways, but what if we weren't allowed to marry each other?" Christine seemed slightly worried at this train of thought. Apparently, she understood much more of the village gossip then she let on.

"Why wouldn't we be?" Raoul asked, sitting up straighter and looking at Christine inquisitively.

Christine smiled at her friend uneasily, her brilliant blue eyes clouded over with worry, like a sunny day that turns into a summer squall. "Just things I overheard at the village. You're a vicomte... and I'm Papa's daughter."

Raoul raised an eyebrow in a manner reminiscent of his elder brother, Philippe. "So?"

"So..." Christine trailed off and smoothed out her apron before meeting Raoul's eyes again. "Well... your governess was very angry when you fetched my scarf out of the sea, and didn't want to let you come with Papa and me. She said that... she didn't want a de Chagny to mingle with common people. She didn't want us to be friends, so she certainly wouldn't want us to be married." Christine looked down and pressed a few springy blades of grass to the earth, studying the way the blades bent and straightened under the weight of her fingers as if they were a problem in a complex scientific experiment. "Do you think... other people will have the same opinion?"

Raoul crossed his arms in a vaguely rebellious manner. "If they do, it doesn't matter. You're my friend, and I won't let anyone change that. Philippe lets me play with you, so I don't see what's wrong with it." Raoul paused a moment. "And your Papa lets us be friends, so I can't see why he wouldn't let us be married."

Christine smiled slowly and shyly. "I suppose you're right, Raoul." She then looked across the little clearing where they rested and her eyes lit up. "Ooh! Look, Raoul! Roses!" She hastily got to her feet and brushed off her skirts. "Come pick them with me?"

Raoul smiled and also stood, attempting to brush out his wrinkled trousers. "All right."

Later that evening, Raoul returned to his aunt's chateau, fingers pricked and hands and arms scratched from trying to pluck roses off their stems without the aid of a knife, smiling triumphantly. Christine returned to her far humbler abode, a crown of rosebuds perched delicately on her golden- hair and a handful more in her small hand, her eyes bright and her smile charming.

Raoul's governess saw this and clucked disapprovingly. Raoul's aunt saw this, and smiled affectionately at her nephew, lost in memories of her youth and dreams of the future. Christine's father saw this, smiled to himself, and silently approved.

The villagers saw this, and smiled secretly to themselves. Yes- the love between the two children was as innocent and delicate as a rosebud in a snowstorm... but rosebuds were sure to bloom.