• Published 13th Feb 2015
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Twilight, Good Night - Carapace

To better herself, Luna has studied Twilight's actions and friendship reports. She never expected to find herself under the microscope in turn.

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13: Concerning Family

Seated at the midnight blue painted desk in her study, with her hooves steepled, Luna frowned. Her last visit to Ponyville was pleasant, very much so, even though she’d unwittingly stolen the show with her little display.

Twilight’s puzzle, beautiful though the scenery had been and as much fun as they had constructing it, fell by the wayside in favor of the mares heaping praise on her, crowing over the splendor that graced the night sky with her careful arrangement of the stars.

Her feathers ruffled, her cheeks burned at the echoes of their voices. From Pinkie Pie’s over exaggerated gasp to Rarity fawning over her, even Rainbow noted that “if all art was as awesome as that, I’d be a lot more into it!”

There was certainly a point to be made that she felt all art was just as “awesome” in its own right, but Luna had been a bit too distracted by something else:

Twilight Sparkle, yet again. When she finally managed to overcome her awe and regain control of her mouth, she babbled excitedly, flinging questions faster than Luna could even begin to comprehend.

How had she done it? How did she bring the stars forth from the blackness of night? Was there a spell? Was it unique to her?

It was in that moment, Luna found herself, once again, in a rather odd position: Twilight Sparkle was examining her. The pony she so admired and respected expressed the same sentiments, the same interest in her.

But, despite her joy and how flattered she truly was, the question remained; her elder sister’s hints had done nothing to help her understand Twilight Sparkle’s habits.

Nothing. Between her observations during her most recent meeting and those from the original, all she could go on was the basic notion that Twilight was uncomfortable whenever praised for some odd reason.

For what? Nervous that she might not not live up to expectations? Afraid of disappointing or angering my sister? Her frown deepened, her tail flicking in agitation. How very nostalgic this feeling is. There is a word for this frustration, I believe. One that goes along quite nicely with the feeling of wanting to tear my mane out. ’Tis on the tip of my tongue.

She breathed in deep, eyes widening just slightly as it clicked. “Maddening. The word I wish to use is ‘maddening’.” Luna mused, her hooves folded over one another.

At her side, as always, Captain Erebos coughed awkwardly. He raised a brow and spoke in low tones.. “What’s maddening, Princess? Is there something Moondancer or I could do to help?” He nodded to the little unicorn standing off to the side.

With a glance toward both ponies, Luna allowed herself a small smile. My, how dedicated you are. “’Tis no real cause for concern, Erebos.” She waved him off with a hoof. “I am simply faced with a question that refuses to yield and bear its secrets to me. Also—” her smile turned predatory “—aren’t you supposed to call her Moonie?”

A beat of silence, another awkward cough from Erebos, a tiny squeak from Moondancer. Their activities were still the subject of much teasing, both from herself and the guards, no matter how Erebos tried to order them to stop.

Mischief begets mischief, Captain.

He mumbled something incomprehensible under his breath, an odd shift from his usual manner. Moondancer herself seemed a bit off as well, as though she were walking on eggshells—well, her nerves weren’t the best, but she had been getting better as long as they weren’t in the chariot.

Luna’s ears twitched. “If you have something to say, then speak, Erebos,” she turned, folding her hooves in her lap as she regarded the pair. “And you as well, Moondancer.”

The pair shared a look, Moondancer chewing on her bottom lip before turning back to face her princess. “Uh, well, it just seems like,” she paused to shuffle her hooves in the soft, midnight blue carpet of Luna’s chambers, struggling to bring the words forth.

Luna raised a brow, glancing at her seneschal’s pinned back ears and anxiously flicking tail. “Relax,” she said softly, giving a tiny smile. “I will hardly send you to the dungeons for speaking when I asked.”

“O-Of course, it’s just that it might be a little,” Moondancer glanced down and away, finding interest in the floor rather than meet Luna’s gaze, “forward of me to say. But, if you don’t mind me saying—"

“She really doesn’t, get to the point,” Erebos cut in.

“Sorry! Sorry! Uh, well, it just seems like something’s been bothering you ever since your visit with Twilight. You were happy at first, but since then, you’ve been sort of, um, brooding. Like something’s just nagging you,” she shifted in place and ducked her head. “Did something go wrong?”

Ah, worried about my friendship with Twilight. Interesting. With a smile, Luna shook her head. “No, my ever-faithful Moondancer, my meeting with Twilight Sparkle was quite pleasant, thank you. Though, I will not deny, she is the focal point of the very question I am faced with.”

Erebos stepped forward, his ears standing straight up. “Princess, perhaps if you told us what this question is we might be able to help rather than jumping to conclusions. I’ll admit, your state has been noticed by a number of the Night Guards; they wonder what it is that has their beloved Princess of the Night so reflective.” He pulled a face and gave his leathery wings a little ruffle. “They worry that you’re dissatisfied with their performance.”

Luna winced, pressing her hoof against her cushion and grinding it against the soft plush. They are far too worried about my approval. The memory of the twins’ antics flitted through her mind, the mischievous grins and jokes, the same that had been typical of her guard since its inception. Perhaps, a bit too much like the foals I never had. “You have assured them that I am quite pleased to have returned to such a well-trained unit, I hope?”

“I did,” he gave a single nod, “but, my word only means so much when I cannot give a specific answer. Some wonder if they’ve done something wrong, others itch to know what or whom has you so bothered and if there’s any way they can help take care of it.”

“Unnecessary!” She blurted out, louder than she intended. The trouble with having a guard branch comprised of a race that owes you a debt: undying loyalty. Her eyes flitted to her desk drawer—locked, with the key hidden in a place only she knew. The contents secure. Far too much. Too many of those memories.

Luna shook her head. “I appreciate their dedication, but no action will be necessary, Captain.”

“I’ll be sure to let them know that all is well. Once they hear Miss Sparkle’s name, that should set them at ease. However—” she could almost see the gears turning in his head as Erebos furrowed his brows “—the question you’ve mentioned, it wouldn’t happen to be about her nerves, would it?”

“Indeed. I do not mean to belabor a point, but I find her seeming lack of pride unsettling.” Luna flicked her tail, as if to ward off a pest. “Humility is an admirable quality, but the way she shies away from praise, and the scene my sister described with the Day Court trouble me. She is my friend, more than that, she is a mare of great magical skill and moral fiber; Twilight Sparkle should hold her head high when she walks through this city, not blush and shuffle her hooves in the dirt!”

Erebos quirked an eyebrow. “I see. Taking Princess Celestia’s story into account, do you think the trip to Court might have been the cause?”

“I cannot say for certain, but I mean to find out. Unfortunately, Tia seems unwilling to be forthright with the entire story,” she snorted harshly. “Ironic, that I was the trickster in days gone by, but now she returns the favor. I would venture to say this is her way of returning the favor, but she is not so cold.”

“Um, Princess,” Moondancer put in, raising her hoof. “I went through Princess Celestia’s school, there was a bit of a similar method for teaching when we got to the more advanced lessons.”

Raising her eyebrow, Luna turned a hoof through the air to prompt the mare.

Another shuffle, a quick glance away before she continued on. “Our teachers used to give us problems—thaumotology equations, potions laboratory projects, stuff like that. We had to work them out on our own time and balance the rest of our coursework.”

“And, how, pray tell, does this apply?” Her muzzle creased into a small frown. “Are you likening this to a school project?”

“No—yes—sort of—“ Moondancer stammered, glancing to Erebos for support.

The Captain of the Night Guard sighed and shook his head, smiling all the same. “Princess, if I may. I believe Miss Moondancer is comparing your question to her school projects in terms of the design in their directions, not in the weight they carry. After all, Princess Celestia did give some indication of what she feels may be the root of the problem.”

Luna hummed to herself. “True,” she admitted. “My sister and I are hardly omnipotent, despite what some ponies might think. She would only know what she had seen, unless, of course—” she raised an eyebrow at Erebos “—the Night Guard were watching her most prized student.”

“Not in that sense,” he replied smoothly. “The most we did was tail her when she walked home at night, just to be certain she made it safe and sound.”

“In the middle of Canterlot? My, aren’t we paranoid.”

“I prefer to have something in place and find it unnecessary than to need it and not have it ready,” Erebos said with a little shrug. “But, that aside, we didn’t utilize our old methods. Her privacy was respected, as ordered by Princess Celestia and in accordance with your protocols for Equestrian citizens.”

Nodding, Luna turned herself back to place her hooves on the desk. “Very good. I am quite pleased to see that much remained the same.” She flicked her tail and sighed. One question answered, but the prevailing issue still hung over her head, like a dark cloud.

Twilight flinching, pinning back her ears and ducking her head when praised, a deep blush coloring her cheeks; even when her friends made casual mention of her deeds.

She should be proud of herself! Her head should be held high as she strides through the hallways of Equestria’s finest academic institutions. Students should be lined up to hear her lectures on thaumatological theory. Her brows furrowed, Luna flicked her tail. Though, perhaps that is not what she wants. Perhaps she prefers the library, so to stay closer to her friends. But, based on what Tia told me of the “guest lectors”, she could easily make sporadic appearances.

“I wish I could understand her,” Luna muttered. “How a mare so intelligent and so gifted could be so embarrassed by her own ability escapes me.”

Frowning to herself, she tried to make heads or tails of it. There was some similarity between Twilight and Celestia—especially during the earliest days of Equestria.

Tia was kind, studious, protective of her ponies, and fretted over every decision she had to make. I loved to play jokes, paint, listen to music, and chat with friends. Another flick of her tail. Luna sniffed and shook her head. For a time, that is…

Twilight; She was focusing on Twilight’s problems, not lamenting the days gone by, faces long since decayed to dust by the slow turn of time, or the mistakes that plagued her darkened past. There was nothing to be done to change those events, no matter how she might wish.

Focus on today, as Tia might say. Luna took a deep breath in through her nose, slowly letting it out through her mouth. If there is one thing that Cadenza is to be thanked for, ’tis her calm breathing technique. What wonders that would have done in days of old.

“Moondancer,” she spoke again, “from what you recall of your school days, how would you describe Twilight Sparkle?”

Moondancer hummed, shifting from her weight from one side to the other. “She wasn’t quite like she is now. Honestly, I couldn’t even call us friends, just study buddies—or acquaintances would be a better word.”

“Did you not get on well with her?”

“Oh, no! We could talk with one another just fine, Princess. But—“she huffed and shook her head, her voice taking on a rather bitter tone “—she wasn’t really one to socialize. Everything was just study, study, study with that mare! Twinkleshine, Colgate, and I used to try—oh, how we tried!—to get her to go out with us, just for a night on the town or a nice little party. Every time, she had her studies…”

Luna’s right ear flicked, the sudden shift in tone clear as the stars in the sky. “T’would seem that such anti-social behavior offends you, my dear Moondancer. I wonder, what must that make you think of me?”

A squeak of surprise!

Turning, she found Moondancer, recoiled, with her ears laying flat against her scalp. “Am I wrong?”

“I-I didn’t mean it like—stop laughing, Captain!” Moondancer’s cheeks puffed out, she stamped a hoof against the soft carpeting. A rare show of frustration and gumption before Luna. “I meant it just as observation! Yes, I’ll admit, I was a bit upset when she turned us down. It… I won’t lie, it hurt. Especially the last time.” She hung her head and sniffled. “She made an excuse to miss my party, then found such good friends somewhere else…”

Luna rustled her wings, quickly averting her gaze. To a point, she could pity Moondancer; being rejected—even unintentionally—time and time again, only to watch as that pony went and found different friends was certainly hurtful.

Especially to a young mare who admired and tried so very hard to reach out a hoof, as she had.

“I am uncertain what to say on that front.” She shifted in her cushion, idly rubbing at her shin. “Were it not for her relocation to Ponyville, I would not have had the pleasure of meeting Twilight upon my… er, return.”

“Oh, I’m not upset—well, not quite as upset as I was when it happened. I’m really happy for both of you, just…” Another sigh, her head hung lower. Her tail shifted between her legs, even the pretty blue bow she wore seemed to droop. “I really wish she’d have given us a chance.”

Erebos strode forth and threw a wing over Moondancer’s withers. “If it’s of any consolation, Miss—er, Moonie— I don’t think she did so deliberately. She’s… well, she wasn’t exactly the most observant pony when it came to friendship back then. As I recall, Princess Celestia had to send her away for that to happen.” He smiled awkwardly as he corrected himself, reaching up to tip his helmet down just slightly as if to hide from Luna’s gaze.

Futile, but Luna bit back the easy quip. If he wanted to be helpful, by all means, Erebos had her blessing. Especially if it gave Moondancer that last little nudge to get her so she was comfortable around the Night Guard.

Almost as though he could hear her innermost thoughts, Erebos reached out with a hoof and took hold of Moondancer’s chin, gently raising it and forcing her to look him in his amber eyes. “Come now, Moonie, you know too well how wrapped up she was in her work those days.”

“Yeah,” she mumbled. “But it’s still a bit upsetting.” With a shake of her head, Moondancer shifted away from his hoof and pasted a smile on her muzzle. “Oh well. She has her friends, I have mine. Maybe we can talk next time we meet—“ fixing Erebos with a half-lidded stare, an odd gleam shone in her eyes “—if the good Captain doesn’t get me drunk on cider again!”

Lowering his hoof, Erebos snorted. “Last time I try doing something nice for you. Cheeky little mare…”

Oh my, Luna hid a laugh behind her hoof. T’would seem that our antics have rubbed off on dear Moondancer! At long last, victory is mine. She cleared her throat and lightly—by her standards—rapped her hoof against the desktop. “Happy though I am that you two seem to be having a bit of fun, I would like that we please return to the topic at hoof.”

The pair shared a wince. Moondancer coughed, her alabaster cheeks colored pink with a deep blush. “Er, my apologies, Princess! Please, how might I help?”

“Originally, I was hoping that you might be able to provide some insight into Twilight’s apparent aversion to praise, but it would seem that you are not nearly as familiar with her ways as I had hoped.”

“Ah, no, Princess. Not as well as I’d have liked either, I’m afraid. Sorry to disappoint.”

“’Tis no fault of yours.” Luna dismissed the apology with a casual wave of her hoof. “It means that I will simply have to find an alternative source to investigate the matter. The question I am now faced with, is whom shall I visit?”

Erebos tapped a hoof against his chin, humming in thought. After a moment, his ears perked up, he gave his wings a merry flap and spoke. “Princess, if I may, Miss Sparkle’s family does reside in the city; you could pay them a visit, if you really want an idea of their habits. As I recall, she was closest to her brother and Princess Cadence—”

Her muzzle twisted into a scowl. Of course. The one pony she went out of her way to avoid, a remnant of Celestia’s days of loneliness and need to find a pony to share the burden of ruling. In the form of a mare as sugary sweet and affectionate as the day was long.

“Lulu, I promise you, Cadence was never meant to be a replacement for you! I was… lonely. She needed guidance as she came into her own, and Equestria needed another princess. Please, don’t take your frustrations out on her—give her a chance. For me?”

Easier said than done, at times. Cadence—Luna’s niece, by both Celestia’s and the younger alicorn’s insistence—seemed to take Luna’s awkwardness and mild aversion to her presence as cue to be a bigger fixture of her life.

If it wasn’t occasionally joining her traditional dinner with Celestia, it was an invitation to an evening with Cadence and Shining Armor. While she had nothing against Captain Armor—after all, Erebos spoke very highly of him—it was just… awkward, the few times she grudgingly accepted.

The fact that Celestia had been standing just behind Cadence, with that expectant smile and her brow arched had utterly nothing to do with it.

“Give her a chance, Lulu.” The voice echoed in her ears.

Luna sighed and rubbed her temples. Her little joke about allying herself with Cadence to make mischief in Ponyville had been just that: a joke. Nothing more than something to make Twilight smile. Perhaps. But there is another option. “What of her parents? Night Light and Twilight Velvet, if I am not mistaken? Would they not have the same information I require?”

A single nod. “Yes, Princess. Though they might be a bit alarmed that you are so interested in their daughter; especially asking questions about her nerves. They may very well assume that Twilight’s done something to offend you.”

Wrinkling her muzzle, she steepled her hooves. That would be undue drama, she thought, a scowl marring her muzzle once again. And she would likely hear about it and begin to worry, which would only make things worse.

“Cadence and Captain Shining Armor it is.” She rolled her eyes. “I can only wonder just how many invitations I will have to deny this time.”

Both Erebos and Moondancer drew in sharp breaths, sharing a look with one another; a silent conversation. As if neither particularly wanted to be the one to speak out on the matter.

With a huff, Luna folded her hooves. Even in the presence of her own guard and seneschal, those she trusted most, the legacy of her temper played strong upon their minds. Foal steps, Luna. T’will take time. “If you wish to speak, then speak. I will not punish your council on matters that I have requested aid.”

Erebos tapped a hoof against the ground and flicked his tufted ears. “Forgive me, Princess, but you asked us for help with matters regarding Twilight Sparkle, not your relationship with Princess Cadence. However—“ he rustled his leathery wings, breaking eye contact in a rare show of submission “—I think it might be a bit counterproductive to ask for Princess Cadence’s help and then treat her so cooly, if you would permit me to say. It may very well offend her, and she’s been rather gracious since your return.”

Silence hung over the trio. Luna grumbled a curse in old Equish, both at herself and Erebos. How I forget that behind his mischief and teasing is a sharp mind befitting his status as Captain of my Night Guard. She snorted, her tail snapped through the air. Such a pity that he just had to remind me of that when I would much prefer to avoid the subject.

Still, his point was one not easily refuted; Cadence had been patient with her, calmly smiling and offering help in any way, shape, or form the very moment she returned, even though Luna received her in such lukewarm fashion.

“Loathe though I am to admit it,” she forced herself to say, “you are correct, Captain. T’would seem that my old habit of holding a grudge is not quite as shaken as my sister would like.” She stood, wincing as her muscles protested the sudden change in position. Confounded muscle stiffness. “Very well, I shall consult Cadence and Shining Armor this eve. Hopefully, they will be more forthright with the answers I seek. Erebos, kindly inform the guards that I will be leaving the castle grounds. Kindly have my chariot readied. ”

“Yes, My Princess! Strider and Shooting Star should be on shift soon—I’ll let them know to make ready.” Erebos bowed low, before turning on his hooves and leaving the room without another word.


Moondancer stood tall, a bright smile played upon her muzzle. “Yes, Princess?”

“And inform my sister that I will not be present at dinner this eve—you may tell her that I mean to visit our niece.”

“I’ll see to it, Princess.” Bowing, Moondancer backed away a few paces, a bit more formal gesture than Erebos’, and turned to head out the door.

As the door closed shut with an audible click, Luna glanced down at her hooves; the silver of her shoes in stark contrast to the her coat. As stark a contrast as Twilight’s demeanor when she wished to help and that of whenever somepony lauded her.

Patience. She reminded herself, drawing in a deep breath. Wait and see what Cadence and Shining Armor have to say, their input on the matter could be invaluable.

The carriage ride through Canterlot seemed to drag on. The rattling of wheels on cobblestone was a drastic change from the rush of wind through her mane; rather than a nice evening flight, with the stars shining down and the light of the moon upon her back, a sight in clear view through the open chariot, she found herself boxed in the Royal Carriage.

While certainly accommodating with its lavish plush interior, Luna longed for the intimate connection with her night.

At least she could glance out the window every now and again, if only to give herself a glimpse of the moon hanging over the city, its visage flickering into view between the rooftops of the military district.

Luna sniffed as she gazed on the houses; each of them two stories high and designed with the same blue exterior and brown rooftop.

Hardly a place fit for a princess, at least not in her age. But, times had changed, as Celestia reminded herself so many times. Perhaps, in this age, it is not so out of the ordinary for one of high status to choose a more humble dwelling. It would certainly explain why Twilight lived in a library, of all things. But she, at least, was a student—she had a reason to want to be closer to her books.

Cadence, on the other hoof, was a fully-fledged princess, the alicorn of love; she embodied the passion, the emotional connection that two ponies felt upon realizing their love for one another. By right, she should have her own wing in the castle, and a throne alongside Celestia’s and Luna’s—regardless of the latter’s aversion toward her.

Should a princess not have her stallion living with her in the castle? Or does she place more value on the good Captain’s desire to remain closer to his troops and stay true to his roots? Perhaps a conversation for a later day.

As the carriage rolled to a halt outside her destination, Luna pushed those thoughts from her mind. Twilight. She reminded herself. I am here to inquire about Twilight.

From outside, Private Shooting Star pulled open the door and stood to the side. “Princess,” he greeted with a deep bow, “we’ve arrived.”

Rising to her hooves, she nodded. Luna stepped through the carriage door, ducking her head to avoid bumping her horn against the roof and trotting down the tiny staircase and onto the cobblestone road. “Very good. Thank you, Shooting Star, and you, Strider.”

The twins proudly puffed out their chests, ever eager to please her and have praise levied upon them. “Our pleasure, Princess!”

Proud to serve, eager to please, and all-too-willing to accept my praise, she thought wryly. If only I could trust them to be left alone with Twilight Sparkle for a few hours and not turn it into a game of teasing the nervous mare… or flirting with her, for that matter. The one thing which hadn’t changed in her absence: her guards’ being notorious flirts.

She snorted. Of all the things Twilight needed, a pair of mischievous twins teasing her until her face resembled a ripe red gala might be a brief source of amusement, but not what was needed in the long run.

I want her to be confident and proud of herself, not blushing before every stallion—or mare, for that matter—in my employ. The lot of them would drive her mad.

Turning to face Captain Armor’s home, Luna quirked a brow at the two Day Guards posted on either side of the door—the single distinguishing feature on the exterior. Though, upon closer inspection, these guards lacked the visage of Celestia’s cutie mark, the shining sun, upon their breastplates.

In its place, a crystalline heart, wreathed in gold; the mark of Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, or “Cadence” as she so insisted on being referred to.

Not my business, Luna chided herself as she approached the duo standing watch. As long as she does not poke her muzzle into my dominion, she is free to deal with her affairs as she pleases. “Good evening to you, gentlestallions.” She inclined her head to the pair.

The guards bowed deeply, before standing to full height. The stallion on the left, a stocky earth pony, responded in kind, “Good evening to you as well, Princess Luna. Your night sky is as beautiful as ever, just as Princess Celestia spoke of.”

A happy swish of her tail, she sucked in her lips, fighting against the smile growing across her cheeks. Do not show teeth in public. “Your flattery is much appreciated… Colonel, is it not?”

“Colonel Rock Steady, Princess. And this—“ he nodded to the pegasus by his side “—is Private Rolling Thunder.”

On cue, Rolling Thunder snapped a quick salute, very nearly whacking himself in the face with the shaft of his spear.

New blood. He will learn. Luna chuckled. “I shall do my best to remember your names. To business, though. I would have words with Princess Cadence, and her lover, if possible. I presume they are in?”

“They are, Princess. Captain Armor returned just an hour ago.”

“Ah, very good! Then they are available?”

Rock Steady furrowed his brows in thought, his free hoof leapt to his chin. “I don’t recall that they had anypony scheduled to visit, tonight. It should just be the pair of them and their hoofservant, Fidelius.”

Her ears perked up, waggling a bit at the news. “I see. Then, if they have not requested privacy, I would like to speak with them.”

“Of course. A moment, please.” He turned to knock on the door with the end of his spear. “Fidelius! Princess Luna is here for Princess Cadence and Captain Armor!”

There was a beat of silence as they waited. Hoof steps, muffled by the thick wooden door, sounded out. A slow cadence of hooves against carpet, with slight hesitation between the steps.

The steps of an elderly pony, whose knees were wracked with stiffness. Arthritis, they called it.

Luna’s ears flicked at the click of the latch. The door opened, the hinges squeaked in protest, to reveal an alabaster coated stallion, with salt and pepper mane and well-trimmed, gray goatee.

Down the hallway, she could hear a pair of voices, a mare and a stallion—Cadence and Shining Armor. Something she couldn’t quite make out, save for the difference in tone; Cadence’s voice, normally sweet and welcoming, held almost a teasing, predatory edge. Whereas Shining Armor, the typically confident and proud Captain of the Day Guard, replied with a hint of a stammer and nervous laughter. Odd…

Fidelius bowed low, the tip of his horn nearly touched the floor. “Your Highness. I am honored to be in your presence this evening. Please, do come in. Princess Cadence and Captain Armor were just settling down for their evening tea—”

A yelp and a thud. Cadence giggling and crowing while her stallion pled for mercy before falling to his own laughter.

What in heaven’s name are those two doing?

“—For a given meaning of settling down.” Fidelius finished, his expression never betraying the slightest hint of amusement or exasperation. “As I was saying, please, come right in. I’m sure they’ll be quite happy to greet you.”

Her eyebrow raised, Luna waved for Shooting Star and Strider to remain outside, then followed in Fidelius’ wake. The sound of laughter echoed through the hall as his pale gray magic pushed door closed behind her.

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