Disclaimer: The setting and the original Phantom story aren't mine. Obviously. But this one is.

This story is a deliberately tongue-in-cheek tribute to every phangirl who ever secretly wished to be Erik... and in later chapters, to every phangirl who ever secretly wished to be with Erik. This one's for you.

How to Be an Opera Ghost

Part One: "Scheme"

It wasn't that Isabelle was a snoop. She simply made a point to read everyone else's mail. There was really no harm in it, she reasoned; after all, it was the very best way to find out what really went on behind the innocent eyes of her fellow dancers. And besides, if they really didn't want anyone else reading their letters, they wouldn't leave them out in the open like that.

A letter left atop a scarf, for example, revealed Geneviève Rémy's illicit relations with a married duke. A letter left propped up against a mirror told Isabelle how an abusive father had led to Anne St. Fort's present penchant for indulging in spirits. A letter left sticking out of a handbag had entertained Isabelle with the story of Elise Marchand's perfectly normal romance with a young shopkeeper… and the baby that she'd had to get rid of before it was even born, for the sake of continuing her career.

Meg Giry's letters were not left out in the open. They were usually hidden quite carefully beneath other papers or in bags or what have you – but Meg Giry's letters were worth a little snooping. Ever since Isabelle had overheard Meg speaking to Christine Daaé that day, ever since she'd overheard the words "opera ghost" in their conversation, she had read Meg's letters religiously.

She had gasped in delighted shock when Christine wrote about being abducted by the ghost – Erik – and seeing his horrific face for the first time. She'd had to wipe tears from her eyes when Christine wrote of how much he loved her. She'd giggled quietly to herself when Christine wrote about Raoul de Chagny and her blossoming feelings for the Opéra's young patron. She'd shook her head in sympathy when Christine wrote of her conflicting devotion to each of the two men. And she'd been absolutely speechless when Christine wrote of how the opera ghost had let her go, and how she had fled north with Raoul.

Again I must beg your secrecy, my dear Meg, wrote Christine in her letter. I wish for no-one to know where I have gone, and I implore you not to follow me. For as much as I'll miss your face, my friend, above all else I now desire to sever my ties to the Opéra. I hope that you can understand.

That was the last letter of Christine's that Isabelle found. And it only served to prove what Isabelle had suspected all along: that Christine Daaé was needlessly melodramatic, and a bit of an idiot.

Honestly. How many of the chorus girls would kill for the opportunity to be kidnapped, unconditionally adored by a mysterious genius, and made to live in an underground palace where they wouldn't have to do anything all day except eat, sleep, sing, and be worshipped?

Never mind about his face, and the killing, and all that. It was romantic, and romance demanded at least a little bit of dramatic tension.

But no; Christine Daaé had run away with her safe, handsome, boring Vicomte as soon as things had gotten interesting.

Worst of all, as soon as she'd gone, the lives of everyone at the Opéra had gotten less interesting as well. The dancers used to delight in being frightened out of their wits by the ghost's latest prank, but he'd suddenly seemed to have lost interest in haunting anyone at all. There weren't so much as mysterious shadows in the corridors anymore. It was completely and utterly boring. And Isabelle blamed Christine.

Something needed to be done, she decided. She hadn't come to the Opéra to be another pretty face in a tutu; she'd come for the intrigues! The romance! The disembodied voices in the dressing-rooms! The falling chandeliers! The very things from which Christine had fled! But now that Christine had gone, the only things left were the damned tutus.

Yes, something needed to be done.

Though the plan took Isabelle several days, in retrospect she thought it was very logical – so logical that she was surprised she hadn't thought of it sooner.

The problem? There was no more excitement to be had at the Opéra.

The reason? The ghost had lost interest in being a ghost.

The solution? There needed to be a new ghost.

Who might be suitable for the job? Someone who cared about haunting things properly.

And who might that be?

Isabelle smiled to herself as she gave the carriage driver the address of the nearest tailor. Well, it was worth a try.