Liese Rieselt der Schnee
Summary: In an effort to escape the taunting of the other girls in the ballet dormitory, a thirteen-year-old Christine flees to the rooftop one Christmas Eve. But no matter how alone she feels, her Angel is there to console her.
Disclaimer: If I owned Phantom of the Opera and its many versions, Erik and Christine would have ended up together in some semblance of a functional relationship. So needless to say, I don't own any of them. (And if Kay's ending can be construed as Erik and Christine ending up together, I still don't own it.)
Pairings: none, as Christine is still young in this story
Author's Notes: I wanted to write a Christmas story, and thought the backstory from Three Days' reference to Erik teaching Christine a German Christmas carol when she was young would suffice.
Thirteen-year-old Christine Daae sat quietly on her bunk, watching. Meg was sitting with her, but she was engaged in lively conversation with Helene, another one of the aspiring ballerinas. They were speaking about Saint Nicholas, it being Christmas Eve. Christine was daydreaming, occasionally catching a few words of their conversation. Saint Nicholas, though he had visited Christine in Sweden when she was very young, never came to the ballet dormitories. Christine preferred to think of her Angel, who she could always trust to be there.
"So, little Chrissie, what do you want from Saint Nicholas?"
Startled, Christine looked up at Helene. She knew that tone of voice. The question was not serious, but she couldn't be sure what Helene wanted. Her heart began throbbing.
"I…I don't know."
"You don't think he'll come this year?"
"Leave her alone, Helene," Meg cut in. "I have something for you, Christine." She slid off the bed and scampered to her own bunk, retrieving a small package from beneath it. She handed the package to Christine. "Here, open it!"
Helene snickered. "How cute. Well, as long as we're handing out presents, I've got one for you, Marie." Helene reached under her own bed.
It seemed that Meg had started a trend; several of the other ballet girls were now exchanging the little gifts. Christine opened hers from Meg; it was a small pale pink candle. "I know you like to light candles for your father in the chapel," Meg explained.
"It's lovely, Meg, thank you." Christine smiled politely and reached under her mattress and pulled out the present she had for Meg: a bundle of hair ribbons in a plethora of colors. Meg squealed her approval and immediately tied her hair back with a silky emerald green ribbon.
"So, Christine," cut in Helene's sticky sweet voice, "did you ask Saint Nicholas for candles too?"
"Saint Nicholas isn't coming. He never does." Christine picked at the wax of her candle with one fingernail.
Helene gave an exaggerated gasp, covering her mouth with one hand. "Chrissie! You? You, who believes in angels visiting our world? You don't believe in Saint Nicholas?"
"Don't tease," Christine whispered.
"What? Speak up! I mean it! You don't believe in Saint Nicholas?"
"He used to visit me, when I was very young," Christine said vaguely, pulling her knees to her chest. Usually all she had to do was act demure and nearly unresponsive and Helene would leave her alone. Not so this time.
"So you do believe? You believe in childish things like angels, and you believe in Saint Nicholas?"
Christine nearly flinched. "It isn't childish to believe in angels."
Meg draped her arm over Christine's shoulders. "Helene, leave her alone. It's Christmas Eve."
"Well, isn't it childish to believe in things that don't exist?" jabbed Helene's friend Marie.
That was the last straw. Christine leapt to her feet. "You don't know what you're talking about!"
"Christine, calm down!" Meg stood. "Don't get overexcited; you're white as a ghost!" She lowered her voice. "You know how Helene and Marie get. Don't lead them on."
"So you have proof of angels, little Chrissie?" crooned Jeanette, one of the oldest dancers, a girl who was on the verge of joining the opera's performing ballet company. But for Meg, she was the best of the trainees, and she knew it.
"My angel is real." Christine's voice quavered. She didn't normally fight Helene and the other more obnoxious girls like this, but their insinuation that angels didn't exist was too much to take.
Helene snickered. "Oh, how cute. Little Chrissie has her own angel."
Jeanette felt the need to speak up again. "Tell us, Chrissie, is your angel anything like my Pierre?"
Some of the other girls chuckled, and a few of them shot jealous glances to Jeanette. It was well-known that fifteen-year-old Jeanette had taken her first lover, one of the stagehands, and many of the other girls envied her maturity. It took Christine a few moments to realize what Jeanette was implying, and she blushed deeply. "Don't you dare say that!" She felt hot tears welling in her eyes.
"Oh, look what you've done, Jeanette!" Helene mocked, swatting Jeanette's arm playfully. "You've made little Christine cry!"
"My Angel of Music is a real angel!"
That caused outright laughter from Helene, Marie, Jeanette, and even some others.
"Christine, stop." Meg whispered. "You can't win."
Christine knew Meg was right. She couldn't win.
So she ran. Ignoring the catcalls that chased her down the hallway, she bolted from the ballet dormitory. Her feet carried her to the place farthest possible from the taunts of the older girls: the roof.
She burst into the frigid, snowy air at the same time as a pained gasp ripped itself from her throat, the tears flowing freely now. The gulped and sobbed, sinking to her knees, ignoring the fact that the snow melted under the pressure of her legs and soaked her nightdress with cold water. "Angel," she wept. "I know you're real!" Her voice was swallowed up by the snow-clogged night air. She cried out again. "Angel!" There was barely even an echo. There was no way her voice could reach up to Heaven for her Angel to hear her. "Why can't I be with you? Why can't I be with you and Papa?" She was whispering now, since she knew he couldn't hear her anyway. She stood up, trembling from the cold. She took a few steps forward. "Why can't I be in Heaven with you?" Christine kept walking. "Angel…I don't like this place…why can't I sing in Heaven, with you and the other angels? I don't have to sing in the opera house…I don't even sing there now!"
Her feet had carried her to the edge of the roof. She peered over the edge. Snow swirled below her toes, which just barely poked into the empty air beside the brick and stone. It was a long, long, way down. One step and she would be walking on nothing, nothing but snowflakes. And within a second, she would have shining golden wings on which to fly, and her Angel and her Papa would be there, smiling, waiting…
Her heart leapt and a little gasp fled her lips.
"You must keep away from the edge, little angel."
"Angel! Is that you?"
A low, warm chuckle responded. "Yes, little one. You must be careful. If you fall, I cannot take physical form and catch you."
"I don't want you to catch me!" she cried out. "I just want to be with you and Papa! In Heaven!"
"Step back, little angel." There was urgency in his voice, concern, and perhaps…fear? She had never heard her Angel show fear before. She obeyed, feeling nothing but solid material beneath her feet, hoping he would heed her pleas in the end.
"Why can't I come to Heaven? I'll sing with you there, and I can see Papa again…"
"Surely you would not deprive the Earth of your sublime voice. You see, Christine, your voice would not be out of place in Heaven. But it would go against nature for you not to enjoy your full time on Earth, to perfect your voice and use it to lift and gladden the spirits of others here."
Christine thought of the snickering ballet rats. "I don't want to share my voice."
"You must. I understand you do not want to share your voice with Helene and the others. But they would not understand your talent. You see, little angel, they are jealous of you, of your gift. But there will be others, others whose hearts you will touch with your music. Do you not want that?"
Christine sniffled. "I'd rather be with you."
"I am always with you, Christine. You must know that."
She said nothing, only began to softly cry again.
"I will teach you a song."
"I don't feel like singing," she whimpered.
"It is a Christmas carol. It is obscene for an angel such as yourself to cry on Christmas Eve. You do not want a song, perhaps to cheer you up?"
Christine swallowed, fighting back fresh tears. Music was the only thing that could always, always bring her back from a melancholy mood. Music, with its sweet, powerful melodies that could soften even the hardest of hearts. "All right. What is the song?"
"It is in German. It is called Liese Rieselt der Schnee."
"Schnee." She giggled. "It sounds…funny."
"It means 'snow.' Appropriate, yes?"
Christine lifted her face. A few snowflakes alit on her upturned cheeks, chilled little patches of skin for a moment, then melted. "Yes."
"You will pick it up quickly. But first, step back more. Keep away from the edge. You worry me, angel."
She took several paces backward so she was no longer near the border between stone and air, between life and death. She curled her toes, enjoying the solidness of the roof beneath her feet.
"Now, listen, and try to sing it back to me." He began to sing, and any remaining thoughts of stepping off the roof fled from Christine's mind as his voice filled the air. "Leise rieselt der Schnee."
Christine sang it back, imitating the pitches and foreign noises perfectly. "Leise rieselt der Schnee."
"Very good. Now, still und starr leigt der See."
"Still und starr leigt der See."
"Now, put the two lines together. Leise rieselt der Schnee, still und starr leigt der See."
Christine sang it back to him. And in twenty minutes, she had sung through the entire piece and nearly had it memorized. Her Angel guided her through the song twice more.
"Beautiful, my angel. Beautiful. If the other girls give you any trouble when you return to your dormitory, simply sing them out of your mind. Music helps many things. Now, go—this cold is not healthy for your voice."
Christine smiled. "Yes, Angel." She turned to descend back into the opera house.
She paused. "Yes?"
A grin spread over Christine's face. "Merry Christmas."
She practically skipped back to the dormitory. As she expected, Helene made some snide comment the moment she walked in. Christine didn't even hear the remark; she simply launched merrily into Liese Rieselt der Schnee.
"What's that?" Marie queried.
"Just a German Christmas carol," said Christine with a demure smile.
"A German Christmas carol?" Helene repeated. "How did you learn a German song?"
Christine's smile went from demure to knowing. "An angel taught it to me."
Helene fired off another snappy comment, but again, Christine didn't hear it, because she was singing. Even better than the music though, was the knowledge that her Angel would always be there, keeping her from taking that last step over the edge.
A/N: I know, I know…a Christmas fic posted on Christmas, in the evening. Bad. Blame the muses! Meh, I thought I owed my Phantom readers a nice Christmas story as an apology for not updating Perfect Society in a while. Kudos to everyone who noticed the other Andrew Lloyd Webber quote and the Kay reference involving the roof. Oh, and to those who read my phic Three Days, yes, this entire story is a reference to Erik and Christine reminiscing about Erik teaching Christine Liese Rieselt der Schnee.