Quentin sat in Dean Fogg’s office, shaking. In a few minutes every memory of magic that he had was going to be removed and there was nothing he could do about it. Finding out about magic had lifted him from a world where he hadn’t fit in, it had given him purpose, it had given him something to live for. As soon as he went back to his old life he was just going to become as depressed as he had been before. He thought for a moment about what Eliot had said; that he would find him and seduce him and so make life retain its sparkle for decades. Quentin wondered if he had meant it. It was a strange thing to think about with the threat of a magicless life looming over him, but for some reason he found it oddly comforting. It had, for the most part sounded like a joke, but he hoped it was true. Maybe if he still had Eliot in his life, he wouldn’t be as hopeless as he had been before. Maybe even that proximity to magic would help to lift his spirits a little. He felt sick to his stomach, his hands were clammy and trembling. How could anyone go back to a life of mundanity after being at Brakebills? Not for the first time, he thought about what he had said to Julia, about how harsh he had been. He knew now that if it were him who remembered magic and was locked out of Brakebills he would do everything he could to get it. But unlike Julia, he wasn’t going to remember.
Quentin woke slowly, his head spinning a little. He tried to sit up, but felt too dizzy and gave up. He realised that he must be really hungover and he had no memory of getting home, or of the night out. He lay in bed for a long time until he finally felt together enough to drag himself to the bathroom. It was starting to come back to him in pieces as he stared at his face in the mirror. He had dropped out of his finance course at the prestigious college he was at and had gone out drinking with his course mates as a send off. Someone must’ve driven him home, but he couldn’t remember who. He felt relieved to be done with that college though. It wouldn’t come into focus properly in his memory, but whenever he thought about it he felt an overwhelming sense of boredom. He knew he hadn’t been happy there. He couldn’t remember why he had chosen it over Yale. Maybe it was because they had offered him a place, and they hadn’t offered one to Julia. Right, and his competitive side had kicked in and he’d chosen to go there, knowing it finally made him seem smarter than her. Now he had come back and he would have to start that part of his life over again.
James was in the kitchen when Quentin emerged from the the bathroom. He was making breakfast for both of them, Julia was clearly out already.
“Q!” He said with a smile. Quentin nodded at him, still feeling a little fragile from his hangover.
“Good to have you back,” James said, “sorry that it didn’t work out at your fancy college.” He seemed friendly enough, but Quentin sensed an edge under his words. He knew James well enough to know that he was pissed off, but not well enough to know why. They ate breakfast together in silence, Quentin wanting to apologise, but not knowing what he had done wrong. He offered to do the dishes and James let him, heading off into his room to get ready for the day. When he emerged, reaching for his coat, Quentin couldn’t take their silence anymore and decided to break it. He ran a hand nervously through his hair and cleared his throat before talking.
“James, um, I’m sorry if I’ve done something to piss you off.” James spun to face him, his brow knitting together in anger.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” He said.
“I don’t….” Quentin trailed off, shaking his head slightly, “I don’t know what I’ve done.” James sighed.
“Seriously?” He asked. Quentin raised his eyebrows by way of response.
“You fucking left us Q. We needed you and you were too busy at your fancy school. Julia’s really going through something. I asked you to visit, I asked you to help but you just pissed off.”James’ voice rose as he replied and so did Quentin’s confusion. He couldn’t remember speaking to James at all while he was at college. Was he really so selfish that not only had he ignored James, he had completely forgotten speaking to him at all? His mind whirred for a bit until it returned to what was really important.
“What’s happening with Julia?”
“For fuck’s sake!” James exclaimed.
“I’m sorry, I’m really sorry… I just… I don’t even really remember much about being at college. I think I was really depressed and I wasn’t taking much in.” James sighed and the fight went out of him.
“I don’t know what’s happening with Jules. She’s just not herself. She won’t talk to me. I don’t even know where she is half the time.” Quentin almost wished James would yell at him again. Seeing him like this was much scarier.
“Shit, James. I’m sorry.” James shrugged.
“I’ve got to go. You going to be okay here on your own?” Quentin hated how quickly he slipped back into the role of being the sick, pitied friend, but he nodded anyway.
“See you later.” James said before walking out of the apartment.
Quentin spent the rest of the day doing nothing. He wandered around the empty apartment. He sifted through his clothes. He watched some tv mindlessly for a while. Then he started thinking about the future. Now that he had dropped out of grad school, he couldn’t just spend the rest of his life milling around the apartment. If he wanted to start a different course elsewhere, which he probably did, he would need to reapply, and start new in the fall. That gave him nearly a year before going back to college, which meant he should probably sort himself out with a job.
Julia got home before James that evening. Quentin was slouched across the sofa rereading the first Fillory novel, something he did whenever he felt particularly lost. Julia was clearly stunned to see him. Her appearance surprised him. He knew from what James had said that she wasn’t herself, but she looked dazed, glazed over and distracted. He was the only thing in the room that she focused on, an intensity that she had always, to some extent, had, but that was magnified now. She looked at him like he could save her.
“Did you tell them about me?” She asked.
“Huh?” Quentin asked, baffled.
“Don’t play games with me Q. I asked you to tell them about me. I figured… seeing as how you were here, that you’d told them. I’ve been waiting for weeks.”
“What are you talking about, Jules? Tell who?” Julia froze, staring at Quentin, first in confusion and then a curiosity took over her expression. She tilted her head, still staring at him.
“What have they done to you?” She said softly. Quentin was starting to get angry. He hadn’t seen Julia in months and instead of saying hello, she was talking nonsense.
“Did they kick you out?” She asked. Finally he had some purchase on the conversation.
“Oh, no, I dropped out. Finance,” he laughed, “what was I thinking? That’s not me.”
“You don’t remember?” Julia said and then sighed, “it’s probably for the best.” But her expression had changed and as she walked to sit down next to him, Quentin saw pity on her face. That didn’t make sense. Julia was the one who looked like she needed help.
“What’s going on, Jules?” He asked.
“Nothing. Don’t worry about it. Glad to have you back.” She said, pushing her shoulder against his. It was familiar, it felt like how their friendship had been before he went away, but the distant look in her eyes was new.
“I’ve got some work to do, Q, I’ll see you later.” She said and headed off to her room, leaving Quentin alone and confused.