Disclaimer: I do not own any Phantom of the Opera, including both the recent movie and the original book. This also extends to other 'versions', which I have heard of but not yet read.
A/N: Another part of my attempt to revive my poor old fics. I recently had a request to add to this, so hopefully that will relieve my chronic writer's block. Just so you know, people saying they enjoy the story relieves the block long enough for me to at least write some, as do people pestering me about when the next chapter will come out.
P.S. Don't kill me if cultural details are off. I tried to do a little research, but it's kinda difficult so things are bound to be wrong. I also just realized that I never described Diana. The best time to do that is always when the character is introduced, but I'll try to slide it in somewhere.
Chapter 2: Finding Family
After that night, Erik decided to stop trying to figure out how to get rid of Diana. He didn't have much practice in keeping promises, but he felt that he should at least try it. It felt strange to be needed, but Diana seemed to want him around just for him, not for what he could make or do.
As for the girl herself, the next morning she sat down on the organ bench next to Erik while he played. At first he paused to look down at her, but continued when her only response was to smile and watch expectantly. She watched the deft grace of his fingers, her own trying to mimic his movements on her lap. She continued like this for several hours, till Erik got up to get breakfast.
The pantry was in a corner of the room, a good distance away from the organ. Food sat in a sealed wooden cabinet with glass panels in the front, which showed a fair variety of breads, fruits, cheeses, wines and many others. Erik began considering the choices, leaving the young girl to her own devices.
Diana scooted to the center of the bench, pressing the keys as best as she could remember. The result was a cacophonous racket. Erik was about to go over and stop her, but she turned away from the organ with a pout.
"Why won't it work for me? It's doesn't sound pretty anymore."
"You're not following the right cords, most of the notes you're playing are discordant…" Her confused look stopped his technical explanation. "You have to press the right ones at the right time."
"Oh… how do I know which ones?"
"You have to learn."
Diana turned back to the organ and pieced out the melody of the lullaby. She seemed to have a decent ear, once she got the hang of which keys played which note the song came out cleanly, albeit without any backing chords or harmonies. She was no prodigy, but she had some latent talent.
After playing the lullaby a few times over, she turned toward Erik again. "You know how to do it, right? Can you teach me? I want to play pretty songs too."
Erik had never taught anyone before. He had no idea how to go about it, he himself had learned by listening and watching from the shadows. After that, music seemed to just reveal itself to him. It didn't seem like it would work that way for her.
Still, it might be worthwhile to nurture someone else's ability. He had always been concerned with himself alone; if he was actually going to let her stay, he might as well get used to involving another person.
"I can try, but I can't promise anything."
"Okay!" Diana seemed almost like a normal girl her age, grinning broadly as she moved to the edge of the bench. "Can we start now?"
Erik shook his head, "I need to make breakfast first."
Her small-toothed smile not diminishing in the least, she hopped off the bench. "Can I help?"
Diana's whole demeanor had changed. The day before, she had hardly spoken a word, staring into the inky depths of the underground lake. What had caused such a drastic change?
"I suppose so, but there isn't much to do…"
Diana walked over, watching as Erik removed a baguette and knife from the pantry. "Can I do that part?"
Erik wasn't particularly familiar with taking care of children, since he had never received that care, but he didn't feel comfortable handing her the sharp knife. Instead, he handed her a spoon and an opened loaf. "That one is yours. Put whatever you like on it."
Diana took them and stood on tiptoe, surveying the jars in the cabinet. "Do we have any honey?"
We? "Yes, I keep it on the bottom shelf."
Diana opened the cabinet and reached down to grab the bottle, lavishing her loaf with its contents. She set her loaf on the table, still holding the honey. Erik had just finished cutting open his own loaf.
"Do you want me to put some on yours too?" Diana asked. Erik nodded in response, handing her the second loaf. Diana started to pour on honey, then stopped. "How much do you want?"
He smiled. "About half of what you put on yours."
Diana nodded and added a modest amount of honey to his loaf. She handed it to him with a smile, and then started on her own. There were a few muffled 'mmms' as she bolted down the honeyed bread.
Erik walked over to a chair and sat down, intending to eat his breakfast at a leisurely pace. However, as soon as Diana had finished hers, she sat down in front of him, focusing on his almost untouched food.
Having someone watching him eat made him a little uncomfortable. He turned away, but she simply moved until she was in front of him again.
Erik eyed her warily. "What is it?"
"You said you'd teach me to play pretty songs after breakfast. So I'm waiting for you to be done."
"Can't you do something else while I finish?"
Diana looked around, surveying the cluttered edges of the room and empty middle spaces. "What is there to do?"
Erik spent most of his time playing instruments, creating pieces for his model stage, and expanding his home. None of these seemed appropriate for a 5-year-old girl. "What sort of things do you like to do?"
"Um…" Sea-blue eyes drifted up. "Let me think…" Diana pulled her straight blonde hair off the small of her back and over her shoulder, stroking it absentmindedly. Her round, cherubic face grew very serious. "I like to play with dolls, and stuffed animals, and listening to stories, walking through gardens… I want to learn how to sew; the seamstress was going to teach me. Momma…"
Diana raised her hands to her face, starting to cry. Erik fought down a small bit of panic; he had no idea what to do, but he ought to try something.
He put the remains of his breakfast on to the table, and moved to a space beside Diana. Same as the night before, he gently placed a hand on her arm.
Diana looked up, her eyes red and puffy. She tried to smile, but the result seemed more like a grimace. "She didn't want me to learn, said I could learn embroidery but not sewing. I didn't know why."
"I'll teach you." Erik wasn't sure if it was the right thing to say, but it seemed better than nothing.
It seemed to work. Diana's eyes widened, becoming the primary feature of her face. He could clearly see the vessels in the corners of her eyes.
"You know how to sew?" There was an incredulous tone in her voice. "I thought only girls can sew."
Erik laughed. "I don't know how, but I can learn. And then I can teach you."
Diana giggled. "Okay." She glanced over at the table, seeing the unfinished loaf. She turned to Erik with a stern look on her face. "You need to finish eating. Breakfast is very important."
Erik nodded. "But what are you going to do?"
Once again, Diana surveyed the room, her eyes falling on the model stage. She pointed to it. "Can I play with the dolls?"
Erik was about to say no. He spent a lot of time building the models for that stage. But Carmen, the opera that it was set for, had been over for a week now; he would be melting the wax figures down soon to start anew. It wouldn't matter if they were broken. "You can play with them for now, but when I get you your own you will have to leave those alone. Alright?"
Diana nodded and walked away, kneeling in front of the model. She moved the wax figure across the stage, occasionally making soft comments.
Erik watched for a minute. Diana had Carmen and Don José dancing together, ignoring the set of the fourth act and the knife in José's hand. He turned away to finish his breakfast in peace.
The dolls felt odd in Diana's hands, like candles, and their limbs would not move. She was glad that Erik had said he would buy her dolls of her own, since his seemed to be more for looks than anything else. Still, it was good to have something to play with while she waited. The dolls had on pretty clothes, and she was going to have the boy and girl dolls get married. She was still deciding which dolls she should use as their children, since none of them were really small enough.
She was going through the wedding when Erik called her name. She turned, still holding the dolls, and saw him standing by the organ. She put the dolls back onto the stage and rushed over.
A few feet from the bench, she slowed to a more dignified walk. Erik gestured to the bench, and Diana sat down with a smile. "What do I do?"
Erik had thought briefly about how to begin before calling the girl over. Obviously, complex melodies were beyond her grasp right now, and her ability to memorize long pieces was likely low. The best thing, he believed, would be to teach her note names and placements. Then he could move on to reading notes, and that would allow her to play from sheet music rather than memorizing pieces. Once she understood how to play more complex songs, it should be easier to explain concepts such as chords and harmonies.
It didn't sound very difficult in Erik's head. He should be able to cover the basics in a few hours.
Diana picked up the note names of the keys fairly quickly, once she understood that there was more than one of any one note on the organ. He told her to ignore the black keys, other than to identify the others.
When he tried to teach her how to read the notes, however, she started to get confused. She didn't understand why the notes read bottom to top, and his attempts to explain were met with blank looks and perplexed glances.
It wasn't long before his patience began to wear thin.
The first music lessons were very hard. Erik would get angry very quickly, and would sometimes yell if it took too long for me to understand something. That first day, I tried my hardest not to cry and to deal with his irritation. It was hard, but I felt a little better when he apologized later.
As time went on, he started to be more patient with me. At first I thought it was because I was getting better, that there was less to yell at me about. I learned later that working with me actually made him a better instructor, which made it easier for him to teach me the many other things I learned throughout my life.
We always worked on music. When I mastered the organ and piano, he taught me violin and flute. I didn't have the best voice at first, but with his help I learned to be a decent singer.
After showing interest, he also taught me a few of his other arts, such as painting and sculpting. We would often do concept art for the backgrounds of upcoming operas, and I helped him make some of the wax figurines for the stage.
In addition, I learned more practical skills. Sewing came early on, and I ended up making all but one of my own dolls, as well as the majority of my own clothes. I aided him in the continuous construction in our home, and was taught about the various parts of the stage above. He taught me about trap doors and trick mirrors, and I learned the location and mechanism for every pitfall in the underground paths.
There was always something new to learn. At one point, we spent several nights on the roof of the opera house. He taught me the names of stars, planets and constellations.
He was better at almost everything, of course. I excelled at decorating, sewing and building furniture, but nothing else even came close to his abilities, especially when it came to singing. We started voice lessons pretty early in our time together. After a few weeks, my youthful warbling was under control. A few months of training showed that I had a rather pretty voice, and over the years I improved to the point that I could almost perform in an opera myself. But, no matter how good I got, it was nowhere near the angelic tones that spilled from his throat.
I don't think I'll ever forget the first time I heard him sing.
In the last few days, a sort of routine had been set. When Diana awoke, she would sit next to Erik and listen to him play. They would eat, and she would play with the model stage. She'd endure a few hours of tutoring, never giving up despite Erik's short temper, then she'd practice while he began drawing out plans for her room. She'd spend the rest of her time hovering around Erik, playing in the shallow parts of the lake or exploring the nooks and crannies of the house.
When she was ready to sleep, he would play the lullaby on the organ before drifting off himself.
Erik's musings were interrupted by a noisy yawn. The noise seemed to stem from the subject of his thoughts.
Diana was winding down, it would be time for bed soon. A few minutes later, she walked over to Erik, obviously to ask him to play for her.
To Erik's surprise, she wrapped her arms around his waist. It was the first physical contact since the night she had the nightmare.
"My dreams last night were starting to be mean. Will you sleep with me?"
After getting past the shock of the touch and question, Erik decided that her request made him quite uncomfortable. He was hardly used to any kind of close contact with another human. Thinking fast, he found a few things that might dissuade her.
"If I do, I won't be able to play for you."
"You could sing instead, I wouldn't mind."
Erik thought she might say that, and he was ready with the next.
"It wouldn't be appropriate."
Despite his intellect and all the possible responses he had thought through, he was not ready for what the little girl said next.
Diana laughed. "No it wouldn't. You're my big brother now, aren't you?"
Erik simply gaped at her. All the gears in his mind simply stopped, stuck on one concept.
Diana considered him her brother.
He had, to his knowledge, never been anyone's brother. He had barely been a son. In all his history, he had never really been part of anyone's family.
First, the girl had accepted him, despite his physical deformity. Unlike the few others before who had chosen to look past his demon-like face, she had nothing to gain from him. He had earned people's acceptance before, by using his talents to win them through greed; but he had given her nothing of value. She did not seem to fear him, or pity him as Madame Giry had done. He still had not come to terms with her prior actions.
And now, she had assigned him the status of family. It was something he had longed for all his life, yet she had stated that he was her brother as if it were obvious. She might think it was obvious, but it was surprising news to him.
Diana waited patiently, her round face tilted to the side and her arms still around Erik's waist. She had seen him look like this before, his eyes shut and his mouth set in a tight frown. It meant he was thinking about something, and she needed to be quiet. The silence normally wouldn't bother her, but she wanted to know what he was so intently thinking about.
After getting over the shock, Erik had to decide how to respond. And after the logical side of him argued that he should dispel her of the idea, the emotional side decided to simply accept it.
She clearly wanted someone to be her family, as did he. Why not give both of them what they wanted?
Erik's thinking face faded, so Diana spoke up again. "It's okay for a big brother to make sure his sister doesn't have mean dreams, right?"
"I suppose so…"
"Okay!" She released him, and skipped off to the bedroom. "You'll probably be more comfortable than at the organ anyway."
Well, that would certainly be true. Erik had a sore neck and back from lying across the instrument. He watched Diana disappear into the room, then rose to follow her.
The girl had already snuggled into the rich fabrics of the bed. Erik carefully climbed in on the opposite side, leaving a few feet of space between them. This whole concept was foreign to him, and he was trying to proceed as carefully as possible. Diana seemed to have different ideas, closing the gap and cuddling against his chest.
"Are you going to sing me a lullaby?" The question was accompanied by a tug on Erik's arm as Diana pulled his arm around her.
"Alright…" The only lullaby he knew at all was the one he had been playing for her, and he didn't know all the words. He sang a soothing aria instead, and almost instantly the warm bundle in front of him grew silent and still.
A few minutes later, Diana's eyes were closed peacefully, and Erik was certain she was asleep.
"You sound so pretty…" Diana murmured, nuzzling into his arm. "Like an angel."
The voice of an angel… and the face of a demon. Erik watched Diana as she let go of the last ties to reality. Her lips turned up in a slight smile. What a strange combination.
Erik kept still until he was certain that she was fully asleep, then gently removed his arm from beneath Diana's head. The girl frowned and started to shift, and Erik quickly rearranged the pillows to make it seem like he was still there. After a moment, Diana settled down again.
The large grandfather clock in the main room told him that it was a little past 1 o'clock in the morning. Diana's sleeping habits seemed to be slowly migrating to his own nocturnal style. Luckily for him, certain parts of Paris were open no matter what time of day or night. He threw on his cloak and found his 'outside' mask, a mask that perfectly mimicked the healthy side of his face.
He had created his first one around 13, when it became evident that Mademoiselle Giry would not be able to smuggle him everything he needed or wanted. The mask prevented him from drawing too much attention to himself if he went out and about. It proved to be very successful, and he always made sure to have one that fit him.
He quietly guided his small boat away from his home to where it intersected one of his many hidden passages. Like all the others he had made, the passage had enough twists and turns to make a small labyrinth. A person entering it without knowing the way would have to search for hours just to find the way they had come in, and days to find the other exits. The exit he was looking for lead to a secluded alley behind the opera house, and it was his most-used path for shopping.
No matter what time of day or night you went out in Paris, you could find a store supplying your needs as long as you knew where to look. Erik walked the quiet streets for nearly an hour before reaching his destination.
The section of the city Erik had just reached catered mostly to those whose work kept them in their homes by day, such as late-night guards. The presence of any kind of law enforcement made Erik a little nervous, but no one but the shopkeepers ever paid attention to him.
Today, he stepped into a small shop that was undecorated except for the rocking horse outside the door.
The shop was dimly lit, attended by a young woman who was dozing in a chair behind the register. The creak of the door woke her, and she blinked wearily before smiling at Erik.
"Good evening, Monsieur. Are you looking for anything in particular? For your daughter, perhaps?"
Erik looked across the walls, piled with all types of games and toys. Miniature instruments vied with painted soldiers and carved puppets. One corner was dedicated to dolls, made of everything from cloth to porcelain.
"My sister wants a doll…"
The woman stood and walked toward the selection. "Do you know what she wants it for? I always preferred to have china dolls attend my tea parties, and rag dolls sleep with me at night."
"I'm not sure. If you give me a moment, I'm sure I can pick something for her myself."
The attendant nodded and stepped away, giving him space.
After scanning the rows of peaceful faces, Erik spotted him that looked almost exactly like Diana. He removed it from the shelf, noting the beautiful glass eyes set in the soft fabric of its face.
"How much is this?"
The girl named the price, Erik paid it, and he left to the sound of her thanks.
As he walked once again down the gently lit streets of the city, he spotted something on a streetlamp.
Upon closer investigation, it proved to be a photograph of Diana. She was clothed in a dress with enough skirts to fill up most of the frame, and her hair was done up, but he could tell it was her nonetheless. He tore down the paper and read it as he continued walking.
Diana DeLerou, 5 years old, turned up missing on October 14th, 1860. She was last seen with the Duke and Duchess DeLerou, who were found dead outside a little-known restaurant in downtown Paris. The girl's body was not found, and police investigation suggests that she may still be alive. The Duke's mother, Adelle DeLerou, is offering a reward of 100,000 francs for Diana's safe return.
The girl is about 98 centimeters tall, with straight blonde hair that comes down to the small of her back and large, dark-blue eyes. Any news of her whereabouts should be reported to the police, and information that leads to her recovery will be rewarded.
So little Diana was, in fact, a young Duchess. And every ambitious Parisian would be looking to cash in on her grandmother's reward.
A week ago, he would've jumped at the chance to deposit the girl in a safe place. Now, his eyes switched between the aristocratic portrait in one hand and the doll in the other, both looking so much like the young girl sleeping in his home. He crumpled up the paper and dropped it in the street, intent on returning home and giving his little sister the doll she had asked him for.
A/N My lord, it's about time. I've been working on this for over a month, but my writer's block was so bad… there were days I couldn't get more than a sentence out.
We're almost done with the early years bit, so hang in there. A few more chapters should catch us up with the movie.
PLEASE, review. If you do not, one of two things will happen: I will forget to work on the story. Life gets busy, and once I lose it there may be years between this and the next chapter. The other option is that I will have very bad writers block, and I will not be able to post for at least another month. Reviews, especially if they contain details about what the reader likes or doesn't like, inspire me to write more. This allows me to get a few more pages done, and cuts WEEKS off of writing time.
Also: I totally need a better name for the story, but I honestly can't think of anything. Help?