[Blaise flinches slightly, flushing, and takes a drink of his tea. He looks away from Severus, into the fire and says,] It's no wonder then, that you don't want to take on an apprentice.
[Severus ponders his next comment]
It isn't that I have no wish to take you, it is simply that I do not have the time to adequately consider your tutelage.
[Blaise shrugs, still looking into the fire,] It's okay, I knew that you wouldn't want -- be able to. I just. wanted to ask, I guess.
[Severus strokes the side of his tea cup unconsciously again]
[He looks at Blaise speculatively]
We might test your knowledge and abilities for a short period of time, and see if we suit each other. Albus might reduce my professorial duties if I had more important matters to attend.
[The corners of Blaise's lips twitch and he looks back at Severus, softly,] Is that a maybe?
It is a trial, if you will. If your performance is not adequate, we will consider it a failed experiment.
[Blaise smirks,] Have my performance ever been less than stellar?
[Severus smirks again]
In potions? No.
[Blaise smiles softly, knowing that, from Severus, it's a compliment.] I'll still work extra hard though, [he says, trying to clamp down on his excitment and leaning forward a bit,] and I'll make sure none of my other marks drop and really, you wouldn't regret it, I promise.
[Indulgently] I have always expected a great deal from you, Blaise, and you have not failed me yet. I don't expect you to now.
[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.