((A/N: Slow update and kinda short chapter - sorry about that. New character introduced though! Hopefully the next chapter won't take me as long as this one did.))

The next day was far more eventful than Meg generally liked. Sure, she thrived on the hurried atmosphere of the opera, but it was clear that the managers still had no clue as to how to run an opera house. Rather than organize the auditions for new cast members themselves, they left that work to her mother and Monsieur Reyer while they locked themselves in their office – as usual. Meg was amazed that poor Reyer stuck around. He must really love opera because at the present moment he looked absolutely harried and as though he should have walked out ages ago, and yet he remained nonetheless. Her mother was much more in control of her outward appearance, so she merely came off as more strict than usual. Between the two of them, they'd sent home plenty of crying girls who they deemed "ill-suited to sing in any opera." Meg sat quietly in the front row of opera seats as she watched the auditions. So far they had found quite a few pretty girls who would do marvelous in the chorus. Seated next to her was one such girl. She quickly gained the favor of Madame Giry and Monsieur Reyer and was well on her way to becoming the best of friends with Meg. They sat and giggled with each other after particularly bad auditions, but after good ones they both exclaimed to each other how marvelous the next opera season would be.

"If I could have your attention please!" Monsieur Reyer called out while hitting his conductor's baton on the side of his music stand to break up the chatter on and behind the stage. The noise persisted and he sighed in defeat. Madame Giry rolled her eyes and smacked her cane against the wood of the stage hard enough it likely made a dent in the stage. All the chattering girls jumped in fright and quieted immediately. Monsieur Reyer shot Madame Giry a relieved look and continued speaking. "Right – it seems we have all the chorus girls we need, but those of you who did not receive a place in the chorus are welcome to attend the upcoming ballet auditions when they begin in a few minutes. If not, then one of our stagehands can show you out." With a dismissive wave, he turned his attention to Madame Giry who was instructing him what music she'd like him to play for the ballet tryouts.

Meg quickly lost interest as a few girls followed dejectedly after one of the stagehands and the rest scuffled their feet on stage and waited around for the ballet tryouts to begin in hopes of achieving a spot in the Opera Populaire. She turned towards her companion to talk about the upcoming opera. The girl was staring up at the rafters with an odd expression on her face. Her name was Odette. She was about Meg's age – perhaps a few years older – dark haired and with intense grey eyes. She wrinkled her brows together and nudged Meg.

"I saw something quite strange up there just now," she turned towards her new friend with a puzzled expression on her face. Fearing the discovery of her Erik, Meg quickly glanced up. Just as she did, he must have felt eyes on him because the small bit of white mask that was visible quickly disappeared and seemed to have traveled up. Oh blast him! He was supposed to be stealthy!

"It was likely just a stagehand – I didn't see anything," Meg replied with a disarming smile. She needed to get Odette off this subject quickly. Meg didn't want him to be discovered by this new chorus girl. She tried to convince herself it was because it would endanger Erik, but in all honesty, she didn't want him to decide he liked this curious girl more than Meg. Jealousy was not becoming on young ladies – her mother had told her this on several occasions – but she couldn't help a few not-so-nice thoughts towards Odette in that moment. The girl was oblivious to the direction of Meg's thoughts and regretfully drew her gaze back towards the stage when whatever she thought she saw disappeared from sight.

"Perhaps you're right," she murmured before her attention was drawn elsewhere. She pointed towards where a large number of girls were entering the room. "Oh goodness! Look at all of them! Poor Madame Giry!" She exclaimed. Meg felt a wave of sympathy for her mother. The poor woman would have a terrible migraine from getting all those girls in line.

"Meg!" She heard her mother call out and gesture for her to make her way to the stage. At the same time her mother was calling for her, Monsieur Reyer called out for all the new chorus girls to make their way to the side of the stage. Odette and Meg hurried to the stage.

"Yes, maman?" She asked when her mother approached all of them.

"Meg, mon cher, will you show the chorus girls to their dormitories?" She asked. Meg sighed in mild annoyance, but nodded all the same.

"Of course! I'd be happy to," she replied with a polite smile. "Follow me girls!" She instructed and showed the large group of girls to their new rooms here at the opera house. Odette followed along next to her and chattered away, which kept Meg from being irritated about the conversations going on behind her. The Opera Ghost was the topic of discussion at the moment.

"Did you hear what happened last Opera season?"

"He kidnapped the Prima Donna! Christine Daee! I suppose I should call her the Vicomtess de Chagny now though!"

"I've heard he's a monster! Some type of beast that lives under the opera house and kidnaps chorus girls!"

"Will you all be quiet!?" Meg suddenly exclaimed when she could take no more of their ignorant comments. Sure all they said was true for the most part – aside from the monster part – but she still didn't like to hear others talking about Erik like that. He was a decent man that was just forced through extraordinarily bad circumstances. Although if even her mother had no sympathy for him, she supposed she shouldn't expect any of these brats to have any. The girls quieted down, but whispered amongst themselves that Meg had the same disposition as her mother. A wave of giggles went through the crowd of them after this particular comment, but by that time Meg had reached the dormitories and flung open the door. "You'll be staying here. One of the other chorus girls can show you the ropes," she told them and strode off down the hallway in irritation. She was already annoyed with these new girls and had no desire to watch her mother struggle with the new ballet girls, so rather than head back to the main stage; she wandered off to her room to wait for her lessons that night.

After nearly getting caught by that girl who had been sitting by Meg, Erik had disappeared down below in order to prepare for Meg's lesson. There was much to be done in the two days he had before the Prima Donna auditions, and he was feeling pressed for time. Erik was confident she was skilled enough to obtain the title on her own, but it was better to be safe than sorry. There was also the selfish want of being the reason she could reach her highest potential. She would be his magnum opus! He'd decided that the night before when he returned to his domain after listening to her sing in the chapel. Meg's voice would far surpass all that she could ever imagine. She would be the Prima Donna that all talked about, and she would be his. By some stroke of luck – or perhaps divine intervention – she hadn't seen his face when Christine removed his mask during Don Juan Triumphant. It made his work all the better. She knew his name, she could know his heart too, and perhaps she could grow to love him before seeing his face. Erik sighed when he realized how outlandish his ideas were. Her love – any love at all really – was too much to hope for. His heart would just have to be content with the rare moments of kindness Christine showed him. Tears burned in his eyes when he thought of her and the conversation he happened upon on his way down below. "He kidnapped the Prima Donna! Christine Daee! I suppose I should call her the Vicomtess de Chagny now though!"

With a growl of rage, he grabbed the music stand he'd been stacking pieces of music on and flung it across the room. Music sheets scattered all around him, but he didn't care at that moment. That damned Vicomte! If he had been there at that moment, Erik would not have hesitated to strangle him. He never should have hesitated to begin with! He should have just killed him that terrible night on the roof rather than wait as he had. The chance had presented itself plenty of times to just shove the fool off the roof of the opera house, but then Christine would have hated him forever. Erik couldn't image those lovely eyes filled with absolute loathing. He'd seen hatred in her gaze briefly when he had captured Raoul and had the Punjab lasso ready to strangle him, but imagine if he had killed the fop! In his anger now, he decided he didn't care. He already knew Christine would never be his, so killing the Vicomte wouldn't affect him in the least. While he's at it, he should just extinguish her as well. Then her smile, her eyes, and her lovely voice wouldn't haunt him when his eyelids closed. Sleep was something terrible now and he rarely ended up sleeping for more than a few hours without having some nightmare about the time she'd taken off his mask.

After a small temper tantrum – in which he'd destroyed a few pieces of sheet music he hadn't liked much to begin with – Erik finally calmed down and recollected himself and his sheet music for that night. It would only be a few hours until then. For now – he was forced to wait. It was agony now that he had something to look forward to again. Perhaps he could try his hand at a new composition. Erik gathered up all his materials, but when he went to seat himself at his organ, he cried out in anguish upon the remembrance that he'd destroyed it. Placing his parchment and quill on a nearby table, he bent over and gently picked up one of the many pipes that now littered the floor. In a fit of rage, he'd destroyed his most valued possession. He really did need to work on controlling his temper. Forgetting the lesson he promised little Meg that night, Erik carelessly tossed the pipe back on the floor, donned his white mask – which he occasionally removed while in his lair – and with a swish of his cloak, he exited down a corridor that led above.