Ron Weasley cracked a hand down onto his own thigh, the slap ringing as attention turned towards him. He rose slowly, giving Snape the opportunity to say, "Yes, Mr. Weasley?" For once, Harry thought, it wasn't confusing.
Ron had murder in his eyes, a killing intent. "That's ridiculous." he said, his usually laughter-filled voice now throaty with suppressed anger.
"Go on." Snape drawled abruptly, and Harry was oddly reassured. Snape was still in teaching-mode, his ever volatile temper still leashed, even as he let a bare sliver show through his billowing black robes.
"You're not going to sabotage the Death Eaters -" Oddly, it was Hermione who stiffened at this one - her hiss of Ron! dying in her throat, as Ron's voice overrode hers. "Not if you want to live, at any rate."
Snape simply raised an eyebrow, regarding Ron with slightly more interest than he'd ever shown before. It rather looked like a scientist inspecting a bug under the microscope. Only this one still squirmed.
"Slytherins have a reputation for being both deceitful and mistrustful." Harry wondered how Ron could manage to say that without roaring it in anger - but Snape's face merely darkened - that was a nerve, Harry thought, wondering - not for the first time- whether this one was personal or professional. "You could pull off the sabotage, but be torn down by the ambition that surrounds you."
Ron paused a moment, taking a deep breath. "I don't know much about you. But dying like that would be a waste. And that's just not your style, sir."
Snape, his expression blank, strode up and back, before he turned to Ron again, "Alternatives?" he asked crisply, and Harry Potter felt himself beginning to relax. At least someone had managed to pass whatever test Snape's mazy mind had devised.
"You play it straight. Teach us that instead. Let competence shield you from envy and ambition."
"A competent plan, straightforward too. Are you not worried that someone would see through it?" Snape said, leaning forward, his hands crossed behind his back.
"No more than they see through anything you do. If they catch even a whisper of you working for the Order, your life is forfeit."
"Indeed. Is there anything else?"
"My brothers weren't wrong, and neither were you. Knowing where the forces start is bloody useful." The room shivered with dry chuckles from many mouths.
"Sit down, Mr. Weasley." Snape said flatly - in a different time, from a different man, it would have sounded kindly, maybe even a bit respectful.
"What have you learned, class, from this exercise?" Snape asked crisply, looking more towards the Order than the students.
"I learned that you're just here to waste our time!" Mrs. Figg said crossly, as Harry's lips pursed, in lieu of a wince. This was not going to be pretty.
[a/n: yes, yes, combat is coming. eventually. Write a review, it'll get it here faster!]