[Blaise flushes from the praise.] And you wonder why I don't want to study under anyone else.
[Severus refills his teacup]
I am curious, actually. I'm not precisely the easiest taskmaster, and it could be quite stressful for you to retain appropriate marks in your other classes and satisfy my exacting demands.
[Blaise laughs,] I'm actually looking forward to it. And my schoolwork is easy, I'm not worried about it.
[Severus arches his eyebrow]
N.E.W.T. courses are easy, are they? Perhaps I should speak to your other professors, as they are obviously not challenging you.
[Blaise smiles, shrugging. He doesn't think he's been in this good a mood in months.] Maybe you should, or maybe they just don't have your. exacting standards.
Shall I tell them you have a problem with discipline? I'm sure Professor McGonagall would be appalled to know of a Slytherin who isn't being challenged. Idle hands, and all that.
[Blaise's smile is almost coy,] Oh, it's not discipline I have a problem with, it's just that I stay on top of my school work and, really, the work isn't all that hard. [He shrugs lightly,] If I'm being honest a lot of times I'm not challenged in your class either - then again, I share the period with Longbottom and Potter so it's not surprising.
Perhaps I should exert myself when it comes to your lessons in particular. Talent such as yours should be nurtured.
[Blaise smiles,] Your classes are very well run, and more challenging than most - I just. enjoy potions too much I suppose. But. [He flushes a little, toying with his tea cup before taking a quick sip.] Thank you.
[Severus nods slightly]
[Blaise's smile turns a bit shy and he takes another sip of his tea,] Are you working on anything fun?
[Severus frowns in thought]
Unfortunately, not at the moment. I'm brewing the Wolvesbane potion, and the delicacy and control necessary to prepare it properly does not lend itself well to other projects.
[Severus smirks, a thin-lipped expression]
Wolvesbane is a jealous potion.
[Blaise laughs, smiling a bit at Severus,] Well then, I suppose it's a good thing you're devoted.
Ah, yes. With potions at my hand, I have little need for any other mistress.
[Blaise bites his lip on thoughts he know he shouldn't be having, but can't keep himself from asking,] Doesn't it ever get. lonely?
[He thinks for a moment and then frowns]
I suppose some might think so. But I find it rather comforting.
[Blaise nods, chewing his lip. He doesn't understand how someone could not get lonely with no one on their own level to associate with - and he's a largely solitary person. He finishes off his second cup of tea and asks wryly,] Do you think Dumbledore will say yes or are you only going to ask himso you don't have to be the one to tell me no? [He knows that Severus wouldn't do any such thing, knows that he's perfectly capable of saying no himelf - did say no for that matter - but Blaise doesn't want to seem over-eager and his question will, hopefully, get answered anyway.]
[Severus arches an eyebrow]
There is a possibility that the headmaster will acquiesce. I would not taunt you with false hope if I thought otherwise.
[Severus sets his cup down]
I think he would be relieved that there is a Slytherin with an interest outside of the Dark Arts.
[Blaise snorts,] I suppose that does seem to be a rather rare thing these days.
Indeed it is.
[Severus wonders, not for the first time, if he has been hoping too much. The Slytherin children are, after all, children, and it's only second nature to follow in their parents footsteps.
Abruptly,] When would you care to begin your trial apprenticeship?
[Blaise blinks in surprise, tilting his head to look at Severus and trying not to smile too widely.] Whenever you'd like me too.
[Severus nods once, briefly] Very well. You will need to catch up on some reading.
[Severus goes to his desk and scribbles something on a scrap of paper. He goes back to Blaise and gives him the note.]
Here's a pass--Madam Pince will let you get whatever you need. I'd start with Moste Potente Potions, Potions and the Effects of Substitution, The Nature of Magical Theory, and Potion Breakthroughs of the 20th Century. If you've read them once before, it can't hurt to read them all again.
[Severus sits in his chair and takes a deep breath, consciously slowing down his speeding thoughts before looking intently back at Blaise.]
I intend to save Slytherin, Blaise. Are you up to the task in assisting me?
[Blaise looks over the list, softly, as if he's afraid to tell the truth,] I actually own copies of all of these, practically know them by heart. And. Well, [He ponders the last bit of what Severus said,] I'm up to the task, I'm just not sure it's... doable.
[There is an unmistakable glint of surprised pride in Severus' eyes, and he nods toward the note in Blaise's hand. His voice is slow and careful when he speaks.]
I've given you access to the Restricted Section. Take what you need.
[Severus leans closer to Blaise, his voice going softer as his eyes darken]
Perhaps saving our House isn't possible--I admit fully that it will be a difficult task. However, I cannot sit idly by and watch our fall. If I don't care about them, no one else will.
[Severus pauses thoughtfully and leans back into his chair]
I am allowing my...ah...anxiety to flavor my perceptions. I have no right to ask your assistance in this matter. I have burdened you with my expectations as it is. I forget at times that you are still a child.
[Blaise smiles at Severus, though it's not a happy expression] I am no more a child than you were at my age. [After a moment] I do believe that there are those who could be saved, those who would choose differently if they knew that another option truly is open to them. But there are others who will not hear reason, who think they know better. And a number of them hold quiet a lot of sway - especially in relation to myself.
[A pause,] And thank you, for this. [He indicates the note before slipping it into a pocket.] I won't disappoint you.