Disclaimer: I own nothing. As usual.

This is a little weird. I actually wrote this story months ago, and it's already completed. But I was never going to post it. I have a folder full of stories that I write, decide aren't good enough and throw away. But I just kept coming back to this one until it ended up finished. So I thought I'd post it and see what people thought. It was started long before Cold, Cold Heart, my first real Phantom story and finished not too long ago.

And this best thing about this story? I don't care if you don't like it! I'm not even sure if I like it, I don't know if it's a particularly good plot, or if I could have done things better, or whatever. But it's here for you to read it you want to. So here's the first chapter, I'll probably post the second one tomorrow.

A Place In My Heart

Chapter One

She ran.

She had been running for some time. And they were getting closer.

She stumbled and fell. Her hands scraped along the ground, blood welling to the surface. She clambered up and continued to run through the woods. Shouts followed her and she prayed to God to help her escape them.

She glanced over her shoulder. They were gaining on her. With a cry she burst forward, running as hard as she could. Her legs ached and screamed for rest, which she would not grant them.

"Get her!"

"Don't let her get away!"

A narrow path appeared and she darted for it. Paths led somewhere; maybe she could find a town and get help. But after a few minutes of running she met with gates. She shook the bars.

"Please, let me in! Help me!" she cried desperately. A shout. She turned and saw four men running at her. She ran along to the wall. There was a tree next to it. She climbed up, her leg catching on a branch and jumped onto the wall. She tripped and fell, landing on the other side.

"She's gone in!"

"Leave her. Not going in that place. Bloody haunted!"

"What if she talks?"

"She's as good as dead in that place. Leave her. Quick, before someone sees us."

She tried to open her eyes. A castle stood ahead of her. She moaned in pain and rolled onto her back. Her vision was swimming. She tried to see, but all she saw was the night sky. And something to her left. She turned her head slightly and saw a dark figure, carrying a flaming torch. She tried to speak but found she couldn't. Her vision swirled into blackness as the flame came closer. And all she could see was a white mask in the darkness.

Her name was Christine Daae. And, she noted wryly, her head hurt. She opened her eyes and found that the light was blinding. She hastily closed them again.

"She's waking up!"

A girl's voice. Young and excitable. Christine tried opening her eyes again but the light was still too much.

"Bright… too bright." She managed to whisper.

"Meg, close the curtains." Said a woman's voice. Christine felt a cool hand press against her face.

"Try to open your eyes again," said the woman. Christine obeyed, opening her eyes a crack. Her vision was hazy. She blinked a couple of times and found her vision clearing. A stern looking woman was looking down at her, sat on the edge of the bed. A pretty blonde girl stood beside her, looking excited.

"What is your name?" the woman asked. Christine licked her dry lips.

"Christine… Christine Daae. What happened? Where am I?" she asked, trying to sit up. The woman pushed her back down.

"Stay lying. You're weak. You were being chased in the woods and somehow found your way into the grounds of the castle. That is where you are now."

"The haunted castle?" Christine asked and the girl, Meg, laughed.

"Haunted? How ridiculous! Of course it's not haunted!"

"Hush, Meg. Do you remember anything?"

"Yes… I climbed a tree and jumped onto the wall. I fell… and there was someone with a torch… and… and a mask…"

The woman and Meg exchanged a glance.

"Well, you hit your head. And you've got a rather unpleasant gash on your leg. But both will heal."

"Who are you?" Christine asked, confused. Meg giggled and the woman cast her an irritated look.

"I am Madame Giry and this is my daughter, Meg Giry. The master of this castle heard the men approaching and went out to drive them away. That was when he found you. Luckily for you, he took pity and brought you here. You should be grateful. He is not, by nature, a merciful man."

Christine blinked. This was all a lot to take in within the space of three minutes. She rubbed her eyes and Madame Giry stood.

"The master will want to see you. I'll tell him you're awake. Meg will stay here in case you need anything." She left and Christine sat up. Meg smiled brightly at her.

"Would you like some water?"

"Yes… please."

"Are you alright?"

"Fine. Just a little… bewildered." Christine replied.

"Don't worry, you're safe here."

Christine nodded and absently touched her left hand. She looked down quickly and her eyes widened.

"My ring!"

"It's over there, with your other things." Meg said, nodding towards a table as she passed Christine a glass of water. Christine didn't drink.

"Please, I have to have my ring!"

"Alright. Don't panic." Meg said anxiously, going to the table. She picked up the diamond ring and handed it to Christine. She held it to her chest in relief before slipping it onto the ring finger of her left hand. Meg asked cautiously,

"Are you… married?"

Christine closed her eyes, tears threatening. But before she could reply, the door opened and Madame Giry returned with a man. Christine tried to stand but Madame Giry shook her head.

"Your leg is too bad." Christine glanced over at the man. He was tall and handsome, with black hair, which was slicked down. His eyes were an amazing shade of turquoise. But what she noticed instantly was the white mask covering half of his face. He looked down at her with no expression on his face. Madame Giry said,

"Her name is Christine Daae."

"How old are you?" he asked quietly.

"Nineteen." She replied, just as quietly.

"Why were you on my land?" He demanded. Christine swallowed.

"I was being chased. I climbed the tree to try and escape them. I fell off the wall."

He considered her for a moment. Madame Giry and Meg waited in silence. His eyes darted across her face and she looked back, bewildered.

"Where do you live?" he asked.

"I… I lived in Nice."

"Lived?" he enquired. She swallowed hard, feeling tears once more.

"I have no home. Not anymore."

His eyes fell on the ring she had just placed on her finger.

"You are married?"

"I was engaged. My… he is dead." She managed to say before her throat closed and she had to squeeze her eyes shut to stop the tears. Meg gasped and was instantly shushed by her mother.

"His name?" the man said, no compassion in his voice.

"Raoul… Raoul de Chagny." Christine stammered.

"I am not familiar with it. And that is beside the point. You will leave as soon as you are able." He turned away and Christine cried,

"Where am I to go?"

"That is not my concern."

He left and Madame Giry glanced at Christine.

"Give me a moment. I will try to convince him to let you stay."

Christine couldn't hold the tears back any longer and started to sob, covering her mouth to try and stop them as Madame Giry disappeared after him. Meg impulsively hugged her.

"Don't cry. Please don't cry." Christine couldn't stop. It took her several minutes to regain her composure. She took a deep breath and said quietly,

"Who is he? What is his name?"

"Erik Dumas. He is not a bad man. He just isn't used to company."

"How many people live here?" Christine asked.

"Just the three of us. And you, now. Occasionally Nadir visits. He's Monsieur Dumas' only friend. And my mother is also rather fond of him." She smiled meaningfully. Christine understood but didn't comment.

She glanced down at her right leg and pulled back the skirt to examine the wound. It was a deep slash. She couldn't remember how it had happened. The skin was ragged and torn and it was swollen and red. She reached to touch it but Meg slapped her hand away.

"Don't touch it. Mother will clean it properly when she comes back." She ordered. And then she smiled.

"I'm actually rather glad you're here. I get so bored by myself. Mother is good company, but sometimes I wish I had someone my own age to talk to. And now I do!"

Christine couldn't help but give a weak smile at the cheerful girl. Meg smiled back and they looked over at the door as Madame Giry entered.

"What did he say, Mother?"

"She may stay. As long as she earns her keep, as we do."

"Oh, that's easy enough. A little cleaning and cooking, she'll manage." Meg said dismissively. Madame Giry glanced at Christine.

"I doubt Miss Daae has come from a background where she has had to cook and clean before. Am I correct?"

"You are, Madame." Christine admitted. Meg waved a hand carelessly.

"It's easy. And it'll be even easier now that there's three of us."

"Meg, do stop your incessant chattering. Go and fetch some fresh bandages and lotion." Madame Giry snapped. Meg scurried off as her mother sat on the bed beside Christine's leg. She took a bowl of water and a cloth and dabbed at the wind. Christine sucked the air through her teeth in pain.

"There are only a few rules that you need to follow, while you are here." Madame Giry said, soaking the cloth again. Christine nodded to show that she was listening.

"First of all, you are not to enter the East Wing. That is Monsieur Dumas' private wing and he is not a forgiving man. Second, you will not leave the grounds without informing someone first. Third, you will not touch any of the pictures or objects in the castle unless they are being cleaned. They are all extremely old and valuable. The next and last rule is extremely important."

She paused and looked up at Christine.

"You must never enquire about Monsieur Dumas past, or mention his mask. Is that understood?"

"Yes, Madame Giry." Christine replied quietly. The woman turned back to the wound and Meg returned, clutching a bottle of lotion and a roll of bandages.

"This is going to sting." Madame Giry warned and rubbed the lotion into the gash. Christine cried aloud and squeezed the handful of blanket she had seized in her agony.

Once the wound was wrapped, Madame Giry stood and washed her hands.

"There are plenty of dresses in the wardrobe. Feel free to use anything in this room. Meg and I both have rooms on this corridor. When your leg is healed I have no doubt that Meg will delight in giving you a tour. But for now, I suggest you get some rest."

She and Meg left. Meg paused to smile back at Christine before closing the door. She sank back into the pillows. She looked down at the ring on her left hand and closed her eyes.

"Raoul…" she whispered.

Erik Dumas was not happy. He paced the music room, his hands behind his back. That girl… she should not stay here. Damn that Giry woman. Why had he allowed himself to be swayed? There was no particular reason why she should not stay. He just didn't want her to. And he knew what Nadir would say on his next visit. That he was getting soft.

The girl would be no problem. From what he saw of her, she was a weak little thing, mourning her dead fiancé. She would fade into the background of this castle easily enough. He put her out of his mind and sat down to play the piano.