Harry wheeled to face his professor, and stated calmly, "Professor McGonagall was there. I can't figure out whether that was intentional - on your part, or not."
Snape said, softly, "She does have access to the wards, and know when they've been breached by someone who's not authorized."
Harry frowned at this, thinking, "Dumbledore does as well, doesn't he?" Snape gives a slight nod of almost begrudging assent. "Then you had to have planned this beforehand."
"Oh?" Snape asked, with that irritating eyebrow raise.
"If you hadn't had it planned, then the Headmaster might have just as easily shown up as McGonagal." Harry said firmly. "Even I've heard about Dumbledore and Malfoy feuding over Fudge's ear."
"Why would we have wanted McGonagall to show up at all?" Snape queried.
"An intentional insult, and a reminder. Malfoy hasn't exactly escaped the last few years spotless, even if he's not in prison yet."
Snape smirked, asking, "You think he will be?"
"What's that saying?" Harry Potter said firmly, "Orders are orders. In spite of himself, Mister Malfoy may have no choice."
"You think the Dark Lord would be so foolish as to waste one of his Inner Circle?" Snape asked.
"Tom doesn't appear to be much more stable than Bellatrix Black, and she's at least been in Azkaban for years, sir."
Snape inclined his head, as if to suggest that Harry'd scored a point.
"You called Mister Malfoy an old friend - but you didn't seem to act like friends. You were needling him, sir"
"Then you've missed a layer or two, Potter. How many people do you think Mister Malfoy would allow to do such to him without consequence?" Snape asked.
"One, sir. And not you." Harry responded promptly. "He might see it as a matter of honor. I know Draco would, sir." It felt odd to be using Malfoy's first name, particularly when this conversation wasn't entirely academic.
"You're right, that there will be consequences - though I assure you, they may not be the ones you expect." Snape smirked, as if he knew something that Harry didn't.
"Would you have come up with some other reason to punish your house, if they hadn't muffed the assignment, sir?" Harry Potter asked, "Was the assignment entirely aimed towards punishing Mister Malfoy?"
"I never do something with only one reason." Snape said coolly, "And if you object to that being the only reason for the punishment, perhaps you could craft another goal for the assignment? Something to make it worthwhile for the students, and not just me picking points with Malfoy."
Harry's brain whirled, as he stepped back a pace, nodding, "I'll try sir. May I have a moment?" This time he did not pace, but merely thought of all that mud, forming a sea in front of him. But he'd cleaned worse than that before. What are the advantages of cleaning something? For that was really what the Slytherins had done.
[a/n: reference is chapter 186. as I rewrote it several times, you may wish to reread.
The whole "needle Malfoy" was an early idea for the school year. But I'm using it now, to toss the ball on "can we make this chain even better?" Here it's being used as a teaching tool.
Leave a review - it will inspire more writing
Oh, and for the reviewer who asked when my birthday is: Middle of August. And I'm only responding because it's mildly plot-relevant, as I'm drawing on some of my own experiences. You also get a cookie, by the way, as that's an insightful question. ].