"Alright, my little ponies, we're going to be studying the history of Princess Celestia's reign in History today. Keep working on your mathematics problems until I get back with the first volume of textbooks."
Cheerilee slipped out through the door behind her desk, hoping that the children would behave themselves for five minutes this time. Sadly, this day was no better than any other in that regard.
"Excuse me, Apple Bloom?" called Silver Spoon from her desk on the left of the classroom, putting her rear hooves up on the chair in front of her. "I can't read the blackboard from back here – what does it say?" She had the cultured, gentle voice of her mother, enough to put Apple Bloom off her guard long enough to fall into her trap.
"On the board?" replied Apple Bloom, craning her neck to peer at the front of the classroom. "Um, I don't see anything on there, I think it's blank." Behind her, Scootaloo buried her face in her hooves.
"Oh, you're right, it is blank!" purred Silver Spoon in a mocking, sing-song tone. "Just like your flank!" Diamond Tiara laughed uproariously, joined more modestly by a few of the other students.
Apple Bloom ground her teeth in embarrassment and frustration, then tossed her mane carelessly. "Oh, very funny, Silver Spoon. I've never heard that one before. At least when I get my cutie mark, it'll show people how great I am, not just how rich my mother is."
There was a thud as Silver Spoon pushed her chair back and stood up on her hind hooves. "I'm not ashamed of my cutie mark, blank-flank. It shows how much my mother loves me. Although..." she continued, a crafty look crossing her face. "Maybe you do have your cutie mark after all, and it's about how much your mother loves you! She loved you so much that she gave you away!"
The laughter and muttering around the classroom fell silent. Everypony turned to watch Silver Spoon and Apple Bloom, and nopony dared to move. The sound of Apple Bloom's chair scraping across the floor sounded ten times louder than it was, and then Apple Bloom was standing on all fours, staring directly at Silver Spoon. She didn't even raise her voice, simply addressing the other filly in her usual squeak, dangerously calm. "What did you say about my mother?"
Sweetie Belle crept to Apple Bloom's side, tugging at her tail. "Apple Bloom, we really don't need to do this," she whispered desperately, but Apple Bloom ignored her, focusing resolutely on Silver Spoon. Meanwhile, Diamond Tiara had risen from her chair and was addressing Silver Spoon. "You should take that back now, that's too far..."
But Silver Spoon had just gotten started. "You heard me!" she shot back at Apple Bloom. "Your mother never loved you and that's why she gave you away to Applejack, and my mother says that your mother was probably no better than she ought to be, and I don't know what she means by that but hey stop get away from me aaaiiee!" As Silver Spoon was speaking, Apple Bloom had walked straight up to her, rage in her eyes, and had spun around and kicked her with both back hooves, shoving her bodily into the opposite wall of the classroom in a move that would have made Applejack proud.
This time, the shocked silence lasted for all of half a second before the classroom erupted into chaos. Apple Bloom leapt at Silver Spoon, hooves first, and pinned her to the floor before she could get up, biting at her flank. Diamond Tiara tried to pull Apple Bloom off her friend, but Scootaloo charged across the classroom and shoved her away to collapse in a tangle of desks. Sweetie Belle pranced around the edge of the fight, not sure whether to help Apple Bloom or try to restrain her, figuring that she probably couldn't do either. Some of the other students were on their hooves, cheering Apple Bloom on, while others appeared to be trying to make themselves invisible.
"Fillies! That is enough!" bellowed Cheerilee as she rushed back into the classroom, the textbooks in a forgotten heap on the floor. She shoved her way into the melee and picked up Apple Bloom with her teeth, depositing her on the other side of the classroom. Diamond Tiara and Scootaloo quickly disengaged from each other, and Silver Spoon slowly hauled herself upright, breathing heavily.
"Apple Bloom!" Cheerilee admonished the small earth pony. "I expected better of you. Brawling in my classroom, again! I'll see you in my office after school."
Apple Bloom stared at the floor, scuffing it awkwardly with one hoof. "Yes, Miss Cheerilee. I'm sorry, Miss Cheerilee."
Silver Spoon chimed in from the other side of the classroom. "It was awful, Miss Cheerilee, I was just sitting at my desk working on my mathematics, and..."
"You too, Silver Spoon!" Cheerilee interrupted her. "Don't try to play the innocent with me. I'll know what this was all about soon enough. Now, everypony, back to your desks and we'll try to learn something today, shall we?"
Cheerilee gestured to the chair in front of her office desk, and Apple Bloom sat down, hating herself for losing her temper and making Cheerilee angry with her. Oddly, though, the teacher didn't seem nearly as upset as she'd expected.
"Apple Bloom, I've just spoken to Silver Spoon, and she's told me everything she said to you. And quite frankly, I am appalled. You were wrong to kick her, of course, but I am so sorry that you had to hear her telling those lies about your mother."
Apple Bloom clasped her hooves together in front of her, mumbling, "They're not lies."
Cheerilee blinked, then looked back at the classroom where she'd set Silver Spoon to writing out lines of "I will not insult other ponies' families". "I beg your pardon, Apple Bloom? What was that you said?"
The filly raised her head and spoke more clearly, but her eyes were downcast. "They're not lies. She's telling the truth. My mother did give me away."
Cheerilee was stunned, and could say nothing for a few moments. She looked at Apple Bloom as if she'd never seen her before.
"I'm very sorry, Apple Bloom, I had no idea. Everypony spoke so highly of Mr and Mrs Apple."
Apple Bloom almost managed a smile at that. "Yeah, but they died two years before I was born. Applejack told me, she wouldn't lie to me."
Cheerilee looked down at the filly's file in front of her. "Oh. So they did." Her expression softened considerably. "Is this something you want to talk about, dear? That was still a terrible thing Silver Spoon said, even if there was some truth to it. I'm sure your mother loved you very much, and wished she didn't have to give you up." In fact, she was sure of no such thing, but one had to say such things to children.
Apple Bloom shook her head. "It's alright. Applejack and Big Macintosh are all the family I could ever want. It doesn't really matter who my parents were."
Cheerilee reached across her desk and patted Apple Bloom's shoulder. "You should run along home, sweetheart. I can see this has been a very rough day for you." Apple Bloom brightened up at that, and almost skipped out of the classroom, before Cheerilee called after her, "We can have your detention tomorrow instead."
Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo were waiting for Apple Bloom on the path leading through the schoolyard. Apple Bloom had been lost in thought as she left the school, wondering, and not for the first time, about the truth about her parents. Her expression brightened as she saw that her loyal friends had waited for her. They quickly crowded around her, Scootaloo prancing at her side as Sweetie Belle hugged her tightly.
"So what happened?" asked Scootaloo as she fished the Crusaders' helmets out of her scooter's trailer. "We thought you'd be in there for hours! Didn't you get detention?"
Apple Bloom smiled happily now that she was back with her friends, as they strolled out towards the school gate. "Yeah, but Cheerilee let me do it tomorrow. She thought I'd be upset – she didn't know I was adopted."
Sweetie Belle nodded. "Silver Spoon shouldn't have said that about your mother. I don't suppose Applejack's told you anything about her yet?"
Shortly after they became friends, Apple Bloom had told the other Crusaders as much as she knew about her parents, but that still wasn't very much. "Nope. She keeps saying she'll tell me when I'm 'old enough to understand properly'. I ain't a foal anymore, I should be... oh, what in the hay is she doing here?"
Diamond Tiara was perched on the schoolyard fence, tossing a glittering, gem-encrusted disk from hoof to hoof in an effort to pass the time. At the sound of Apple Bloom's voice, she looked up at the three friends, and slipped the disk into her saddle bags. "Oh, it's you three. I'm waiting for Silver Spoon to finish with her detention. What?" she asked, glaring, when Apple Bloom looked sceptical. "You think you blank-flanks invented the concept of loyalty?"
Apple Bloom tossed her head and strapped on her helmet. "Whatever, Diamond Tiara. See you tomorrow."
"Wait!" called Diamond Tiara as Scootaloo climbed onto her scooter and started beating her wings. The pegasus filly stopped and glared at Diamond Tiara, but she paused before the scooter could start moving. "What? This had better be good."
Diamond Tiara looked back at the schoolhouse, then directly at Apple Bloom. "I just want you to know that what Silver Spoon said in there wasn't alright."
"Hay yeah it wasn't!" snapped Apple Bloom, but then she paused. "Wait. Are you apologising? To me? For her?"
The diamond-bedecked filly nodded. "We've got plenty of reasons to make fun of you – you're poor, you have a silly accent, you're clumsy, you have no dress sense, you don't have your cutie mark yet... but not your family. Family's too important to make fun of. Especially yours, Apple Bloom."
Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle were looking at Diamond Tiara as if she'd grown a second head, complete with its own tiara. Apple Bloom, though, climbed out of the trailer and went to stand next to the fence. "My family? But I'm not an Apple. I'm adopted, everypony knows that now."
"Wow, like, I'll add 'kind of slow' to that list too, huh? You might not be Applejack's sister, but you're her cousin or something. You've totally got the same colours as Applejack and Big Macintosh, you've got the Apple nose and the Apple shoulders. My mother says your mother was probably a cousin who died young. Silver Spoon really shouldn't have said what she said. She doesn't understand family. Her grandparents were wheat farmers before her grandfather found a silver mine on their land, and now her mother's ashamed of who her family was. Nopony should be ashamed of her family."
Apple Bloom shook her head in surprise. "That's just what Applejack says. I didn't think Diamond Ring even knew my family existed."
Diamond Tiara rolled her eyes. "For real? Do you, like, pay any attention to the world outside your farm at all? When the Mayor says 'Ponyville was founded by earth ponies', what she means is 'Ponyville was founded by the Diamonds and the Apples'. You're below us on the grazing order, but your parents – well, Applejack's parents – were pillars of the community. I wasn't even born then and I know that. You've got every reason to be proud of your family, and I'll bet my tiara to that scooter that your parents are closer to Applejack and Big Macintosh than you think."
Apple Bloom blinked and looked thoughtful. "Well... gee. Thanks, Diamond Tiara. I feel a lot better now."
"Good. Now why don't you three blank-flanks go find out if your special talent is, like, 'getting out of my mane'?" Diamond Tiara turned back to her jewelled disk, while a stunned-looking Apple Bloom climbed back into the trailer, and Scootaloo trundled off, beating her wings.
"Didn't see that coming," muttered Scootaloo. "Weird to see her being so nice. Well, nice for Diamond Tiara, anyway."
"Do you think she's right, Apple Bloom?" asked Sweetie Belle quietly, making herself comfortable in the trailer. "That you really are an Apple, like a cousin or something?"
Apple Bloom was quiet for much of the trip to the Crusaders' clubhouse. "I think she must be," she said finally. "She seemed really serious. So if my mother isn't the same pony as Applejack's mother, then who was she? What if she's still alive? And who's my father? Gosh darn it, now I really wanna know!"
Scootaloo unhitched the trailer as they reached the clubhouse, and collected the ponies' helmets. "But Applejack won't tell you yet, will she?"
Apple Bloom shook her head. "Still says I ain't old enough. But that won't stop us! There's gotta be a letter or something from my parents if they left me with Applejack and Big Macintosh. We could find out for ourselves!"
Sweetie Belle grinned. "It's a mystery! Let's all split up and look for clues. Your house is really big, we'll all look in different places for the secret. And we might even get our cutie marks as we go!"
Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle slipped their forelegs around Apple Bloom's shoulders in the Crusaders' traditional group hug. "Cutie Mark Crusader genealogical detectives! Yay!"