Twilight was reading in the library when she heard a knock on the door. She wasn’t expecting anyone. “Now who could that be?” She put a bookmark on the page and shut the book, heading towards the door. She opened the door and saw Cup Cake and Carrot Cake standing there. “Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Cake,” Twilight said pleasantly. “How can I help you?”
“Are you free today, Princess?” asked Mr. Cake.
“Please, please!” Twilight said strongly. “I know a lot of ponies see me as royalty but for the ones I’m closest to Twilight is fine.”
“Oh, right. Sorry. Are you free today, Twilight?”
“Yes, I am. What do you need? Oh, we just got a new shipment of books delivered the other day. I know I saw a cooking book that you’d just LOVE!” Her eyes sparkled, but when she saw the serious looks on their faces she tempered her enthusiasm and said in a calm voice, “Sorry. How may I be of service?”
“It’s our daughter,” said Cup Cake. “We were hoping you could speak with her.”
“What’s wrong with Pumpkin?”
“Well, you know that Pound is still recovering from his injuries from that accident last month.”
“Oh, yeah.” She winced a little. “Pinkie has been a wreck lately. She feels partly to blame for having gone out with us that day.”
“Well, Pumpkin isn’t faring any better. Pound really did die for a few minutes. They said it was a miracle that he came back. He dreamt of a pony guiding him to bed, talking about his final rest. Of course he didn’t understand what that meant. I nearly lost my mind when they said he wasn’t going to make it. Pumpkin took it very hard. Suddenly Pumpkin came and said he was alive, and I was so relieved.
“He told us that Princess Luna came to visit him in his dreams. Pound said he wanted to sleep in the comfy bed in his dream but Luna showed him his sister’s dreams. It was seeing her crying and hearing about her pain that made him want to wake up. It’s such a touching sentiment that not even death could split the two of them apart, no matter how much the two of them fight.
“We thought everything was going to be fine when Pound came home. They kept him for a few days just to be sure he didn’t lapse. Through us, as his parents, they tested his skills. He’s coherent, still has all his motor functions, and doesn’t really have any physical difficulties from the few minutes he was fading away. He did lose a few memories here and there. He couldn’t recall some of his birthdays or trips, which is good.” She let out a small gasp, shaking her head. “I don’t mean that it’s good, but just that he’s so young he doesn’t have a lot of memories at this time anyway. It would have been worse if he had been older.
“When we got home things were good. Pumpkin has been sleeping with Pound every night, just in case he needs her. He got out of the cast a few days ago, but he’s still very sore and can’t move that much yet.”
“So what’s the problem?” asked Twilight.
“Well, kids are kids," said Carrot. "They get into arguments. Pumpkin got mad at him for something he said and they began insulting each other. Before we could intervene Pumpkin suddenly froze and went running out of the room yelling and crying. Now every time she starts getting annoyed at him she does the same thing. She’s terrified of having a repeat of what happened last month. She keeps saying that she never wants to use magic again. We’ve tried talking to her about it but she just tells us that we don’t understand. As earth ponies that have never had a horn or magic or know what it feels like it’s not like we can disagree.
“That’s why we thought it best if you speak with her. You’re a princess and you can use magic, so you’d know best how to calm her down. It’s not healthy for her to be this way.”
“Ahhh.” Twilight nodded. “I understand now. I’ll have a word with her. It’s no problem. Can I come now?”
“Yes, of course.”
The three of them left the library and headed to Sugarcube Corner. When they arrived Mr. Cake called out, “PUMPKIN! Come down here!”
“Coming!” came a voice from the kitchen. In a few seconds the swing doors opened up and Pumpkin came into the room. “Hey, Dad. What’s…” She froze as she saw Twilight standing there, and a look of expanding horror came to her face. She took off crying, running upstairs saying, “No, no, no!”
The three ponies looked at each other. “What was that about?” asked Twilight.
“I don’t know,” said Carrot Cake. “It’s not like she’s never seen you before.”
A few seconds later a scream of, “MMMOOOOMMM!” came from Pound upstairs.
The three of them headed upstairs, following the sound of Pumpkin’s sobbing. As they came into the foal’s room they saw Pumpkin crying on Pound’s stomach.
Pound looked furious. “Why are you making Pumpkin cry?” he said angrily.
“Please stop them!” Pumpkin said, clinging desperately to her brother. She turned to the other three ponies. “H-h-how many times do I have to say I’m sorry? It was an accident!” She grabbed her brother hard. “I don’t wanna be banished!”
Pound threw his hooves around his sister, holding her close and glaring at them.
“BANISHED?” Cup Cake said with surprise. “Pumpkin, you’re not being punished.”
“I… I don’t believe you!”
Twilight put her hoof up. “I’ve got this.” Her horn began glowing as her crown levitated over towards them. “Hey, Pumpkin. Would you like to try on my crown? It’s a real royal crown made by Princess Celestia herself.”
“Do you really think that’s going to work?”
It took a few seconds for Pumpkin to look up. She saw the floating crown, and after just a few seconds her sobbing had stopped. She let out a big, “OOOHH!” and grabbed the crown, throwing it on her head. Twilight held up a mirror for her, and she quickly wiped her face as she admired herself. “Wow! This is so cool!”
“How did you know?” asked Mr. Cake.
Twilight thought back to her time as Celestia’s student. “I’m so sorry, Princess. I didn’t mean to screw up. Please don’t give me up as your student. I’m sor-OOOH! COOL!”
She gave the Cakes a knowing smile and said, “I’ve been there.” She sat down on the edge of the bed and said, “Come here, Pumpkin. I’d like to talk to you.”
Pumpkin’s enthusiasm drained, and she looked anxious again. She turned to her brother, feeling tears forming in her eyes again.
Pound looked up at Twilight and said, “You better not make my sister cry again. I don’t care if I am still recovering or that you’re a princess. I’ll still beat you up.”
“Pound Cake!” Mrs. Cake said, mortified. “That’s no way to speak to a princess.”
Pound didn’t turn away. He still kept giving her a dangerous look.
“You haven’t changed a bit, have you, Pound Cake?” said Twilight, remembering when she had scolded him at the park. "I fully understand your fierce protectiveness of your twin, but you can’t beat up other ponies simply because you don’t like the way they act. But I’m not here to lecture you. I just want to talk with your sister. She’s not being banished, of course. That’s ridiculous. We all know it was simply an unfortunate accident.”
Pumpkin took a deep breath, letting go of her brother at last and climbing into Twilight’s lap. “S-so if you’re not here to banish me or punish me then what do you want to talk with me about?”
“I wanted to talk with you about magic.” Pumpkin’s face immediately soured. “Your mom and dad told me that you’ve sworn off using it.”
“That’s right!” she replied, crossing her hooves. “I’m never using magic again. It’s too dangerous. It almost killed Pound because I lost control. So I’m never gonna use my magic again! EVER!”
“I’d like to tell you a little story about when I was younger. I lost control of my magic back then too, and it could have had some disastrous consequences.”
Pumpkin was showing a little interest. “What happened?”
“Back when I got my cutie mark for magic I had to take an entrance exam to get into a school for gifted unicorns. They wanted me to hatch a dragon egg. I tried my very hardest, concentrating as hard as I could, but I couldn’t get it to do anything. My nerves got to me. I was so disappointed. All of a sudden there was an explosion. I didn’t know it until I came to Ponyville but that was Rainbow Dash pulling off her first sonic rainboom. I don’t know what it was, but something about the impact pushed me past my fear of failure and shocked me into releasing my magic. I hatched the egg, and out came little baby Spike. But more than that happened. My magic kept building up and up until I couldn’t even control it anymore. I levitated all of the judges, turned Spike gigantic, and turned my parents into a house plant and a cactus. Princess Celestia came in and helped to calm me down, and thankfully everything turned back to normal.
“Princess Celestia made me her own personal student at the school, feeling that I had a lot of potential for using incredible magic, but I had to learn to control it through hard study. I was ecstatic at the time, but later on I began getting nervous. I mean, if I could do THAT while I was out of control, who knew what I would be capable of if I did learn to control it? Maybe I wasn’t going to be capable of using little spells anymore. Maybe I would hurt someone for real this time.
“I’ll tell you the same thing that Princess Celestia taught to me: magic is a matter of will. Even without any lessons at all you can use magic to direct your will when your emotions are strong. I’ve seen it before. When your brother is in danger you’ve never failed to access your magic to keep him safe.”
“Not this time,” she said sadly, closing her eyes as tears came dripping down.
“TWILIGHT!” Pound snapped. “I told you not to make Pumpkin cry!”
“Bear with me for a little while, Pound,” she replied. “This is important.” Speaking to Pumpkin again she said, “The fact of the matter is that the opposite was true: being in control is a great feeling. When you deny your magic you’re denying a part of yourself. Being a unicorn you have a horn and the ability to use magic. When you ignore that and deny yourself and push your magic aside to a corner of your mind and lock it away behind a wall you’re only setting yourself up for failure, because no wall can hold it forever when you have no concept of control of your magic. Eventually what happened to Pound is going to happen again much the same way as before. The burden and strain of constantly holding yourself back is going to cause a buildup of pressure, and at some point something is going to push your buttons in such a way that what could have been something as simple as a shove turns into an explosion of power you never meant to unleash.
“If you truly want to protect your brother and keep him from harm then instead of trying to run away from your magic you should learn how to keep it under your command. If your magic starts going out of control then you can rely on your lessons to help yourself get it back under control.
“You’re about six and a half, so this is a fine time. Your actual magical talent is up to you to discover in time, but levitation is the most basic skill that every unicorn knows. I’m going to teach you to access your magic because you WANT to, not because it’s happening randomly.”
“I… I don’t want to!" She began shaking "I’m scared!”
“You have an alicorn here who specializes in magic. Even if you lose control I’ll be here to help you regain focus.”
“No! I... I can't! I won't!”
“Pumpkin, do you remember those kids at the park who were bullying your brother?”
“Do you remember what happened when you got angry? You lifted them all high up into the air, but you quickly realized you had no idea how to get them back down. And since you only could use your magic because you were angry you quickly lost command of your power. If I hadn't been there to stop their fall they would have all been seriously hurt. What if that had been Pound? Is that what you truly want? To not be able to protect your brother when he truly needs you?”
Pumpkin turned towards Pound. The two met eyes for a few seconds, and then she turned back to Twilight and said in a shaky voice. “O-okay. I’ll try.”
“Good. Now to start with I’d like you to close your eyes and just listen to my voice.” When she did Twilight continued, “Breathe in and hold it. Good.” After a few seconds she said, “Now let it out. Breathe in… breathe out… breathe in… breathe out.” She kept up the pattern for a minute, Pumpkin following along at her commands.
“Twilight?” said Pound.
“Yes?” she responded.
“Pumpkin already knows how to breathe. What does that have to do with using magic?”
“I’m glad you asked that, Pound. Princess Cadence taught me this a long time ago. When you’re anxious or scared it makes it difficult to concentrate, and when you can’t concentrate you’re more likely to make mistakes. Your brain needs oxygen to focus, and when you’re afraid your breathing becomes shorter. So in order to calm yourself the best thing to do is to take some measured breaths. If you can master the habit you’ll be one step closer to gaining stable control of your magic.”
Twilight looked at Pumpkin and was pleased to see she had been continuing her command without her prompting. “How do you feel, Pumpkin?”
“I… I feel… relaxed. I see what you mean.”
“Great.” Picking her up she turned Pumpkin towards her brother. “Now watch me.” Her horn started glowing, and a similar glow appeared around his pillow. It moved a little bit like someone was squeezing it. “Everyone likes to have their pillows fluffed every once in a while. Now you try.”
Once more all of Pumpkin’s happiness left her as she looked at her brother. She tried to focus, but all that came to mind was Pound going flying when she had attacked him. She saw the piles of books that had fallen on his head, and she remembered the pain she had felt when he had nearly died. She started feeling lightheaded. Without even realizing it she was holding her breath.
“Breathe!” Twilight said as she noticed Pumpkin’s face going red. “PUMPKIN! Breathe!” But Pumpkin wasn’t listening to her. She didn’t want to do it, but Pumpkin was going to make herself pass out if she didn’t stop. She gave Pumpkin a light slap on the face. The shock of it made her let out a loud gasp, and she started taking very short breaths. Twilight grabbed the filly’s head, turning it towards her. “Look into my eyes and don’t turn away. We’ll start over. Breathe in… breathe out…”
As she focused on Twilight her breathing slowed down until it was back to normal.
“Well, at least you’ve got that down. Now try again. Don’t worry so much. I told you, I’m here. My magic is stronger than yours, so even if something goes wrong I can stop you. Remember what you’re fighting for.” She pushed Pumpkin’s head back towards her brother. “When you got mad you hurt him with your magic. If you can master this you can PROTECT him with it. Sometimes you’ll need magic, but the situation won’t be dire enough it forces a magical reaction out of you. If that happens your brother could get seriously hurt. Keep your love for him strong in your heart, and it won’t let you down.
“Now try it again.”
Pumpkin’s heart started racing again. She was scared of her magic. Catching herself she went back to her exercises and began breathing in measured breathes like before. Feeling a little more secure she started to concentrate, but it just made her fear flare up again.
“Pumpkin!” said Pound, noticing her difficulty. “You can do this! I believe in you, sis. I trust you. Don’t be afraid.”
She took a shuddering breath. His words made her feel more confident than before. She closed her eyes, speaking softly to herself. “It’s for him. For my brother. I have to be able to protect him. Protect him. Protect!” Opening her eyes she took one short breath and looked over at him with a determined expression. She did still feel a little fear, but it wasn’t as overpowering as before. Focusing as hard as she could a blue glow appeared on the tip of her horn, slowly increasing until it covered her entire horn. The blue glow covered the pillow. She kept looking into her brother’s eyes, seeing his encouraging gaze, and she fluffed the pillow a few times. The glow slowly faded, and she let out a relieved breath when nothing else happened.
“Great job, Pumpkin!” said Twilight, hugging the filly. “I’m so proud of you.”
She put on an awkward smile, feeling a little embarrassed. She saw a flower on the floor, and with a bit of focus she levitated it over to Twilight, putting it in her mane. “Thank you, Twilight.”
“You’re welcome! It’s always a delight to help others learn.”
Pumpkin hopped off the bed, running to her parents. “Mom! Dad! Did you see? I used my magic because I wanted to! I did it!”
The two of them picked her up, giving her a hug also. “Yes, you did!” said Cup Cake.
“Good job, Pumpkin!” said Carrot Cake.
Twilight got off the bed, walking over to the three of them. “If it’s okay with you I’d like to put in a recommendation for Pound and Pumpkin for magic kindergarten.”
“Yes. There’s a school in town to help young fillies and colts to master the basics of magic.”
“Well, that’s fine,” said Mrs. Cake, “but why are you including Pound in that? He’s not a unicorn.”
“Well, it’s not as flashy as unicorns, but all three races possess magic. Pegasi are the only race that can naturally walk on clouds, and their ability to fly also comes from magic.”
“Oh. Well, I guess that makes sense. Sure, then.”
“It would be good for the two of them to meet some kids their own age and make some friends,” said Carrot Cake.
Twilight smiled. “One last thing.” Turning to the two foals she asked, “What do you think about this?”
Pumpkin grabbed her brother and said, “I want to learn to use my magic better so I can protect Pound, so I’m in!”
“Me too!” said Pound. “I’d like to be able to fly, but I’m more interested in making sure no one picks on my sister.”
“Great!” said Twilight. “That settles that. I’ll go down to the school today and see if they have any openings. I’ll see you later.”
“Thanks again, Twilight!” said Pumpkin. With a sigh she took off the crown. “Here. I guess I should give this back.”
Twilight giggled. “Keep it for today. I don’t have any royal duties planned anyway.”
“Yay!” she cried out.
The next day Twilight came to visit them again. “Great news! They have exactly two vacancies. They weren’t too thrilled about the late entry, as usually they like a three month advance notice, but I gave them a push. I reminded them that Princess Celestia was the one funding the school programs, and that I was her personal student. Not quite the method I like to employ, but sometimes being a princess comes in handy. School begins next month on the first.”
“Hooray!” Pound and Pumpkin cried out, grabbing each other’s hooves and hopping up and down. “We get to go to school! We get to go to school!”
Twilight’s grin grew so wide her face almost couldn’t contain it. She knew all too well the joy of learning, and she was ecstatic these two were so eager. “You’re on your way, kids. Do your best.”