The Unexpected Task

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Chapter 22 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: The Unexpected Task← Chapter 21 | Chapter 23 →

Synopsis[edit]

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

In Transfiguration class, Professor McGonagall announces that, as part of the Tournament, there will be a Yule Ball. Afterward, she takes Harry aside and says that the Champions and their partners traditionally open the first dance. Ignoring his protests, McGonagall sternly tells Harry that as a Champion he represents Hogwarts, and he is expected to find a date, learn to dance, and be prepared to lead the schools into the Ball on 25 December.

The Ball is now only one month away. Harry wants to invite Cho Chang, but is lacking the confidence to ask her. He is also unable to ever find her alone; he wonders why girls always travel in packs. Ron is also having difficulty finding a date, but is surprised that Harry is having trouble—he is a Champion after all. Soon, girls start inviting Harry to the ball, including a fifth-year who is significantly taller than him. Harry, hoping to find the strength to ask Cho, turns them all down, though he muses that he has been a bit abrupt with some of them, possibly out of surprise at being asked. Otherwise, life in general seems a bit easier; there are fewer Support Cedric Diggory buttons visible now and fewer people are laughing at Draco's repetitive slurs. Harry suspects Cedric told his supporters to lay off him.

Rita Skeeter's story about Hagrid has not yet appeared. During Care of Magical Creatures class, Hermione asks Hagrid how the interview with Skeeter went. Hagrid says that she mostly asked about Harry, wanting to know negative things about him. Ron speculates that she is looking for a new angle to her Harry stories. Ron asks if Hagrid is coming to the Ball, and he responds that he intends to drop by for at least a short while.

The week before the Yule Ball is rather tumultuous; many teachers, including Professor Flitwick, have stopped teaching classes, though Professor Binns continues to plough through the Goblin Rebellions, and Professor Snape schedules a test on antidotes for the last day of class. Hermione scolds Harry for neglecting the Egg riddle, but Harry lazily brushes her off, insisting there is still plenty of time. Hermione warns that it could take weeks to figure it out, and he will look foolish if he is the only Champion who has failed to solve it. The twins appear and ask Ron if they can borrow Pigwidgeon. Ron refuses (Pigwidgeon is still delivering a message to Sirius), then asks Fred who he is taking to the Ball. Fred responds he is going with Angelina Johnson, then remembers that he hasn't asked her and shouts an invitation across the Common Room. Fred and George then take off to get a school owl.

On the last day of term, Harry and Ron are still without Yule Ball dates. They decide to just grit their teeth and do it. Harry's concentration is shot, and he misses a crucial ingredient in his antidote potion – a bezoar – and receives bottom marks. Running off, he finds Cho coming from class and asks her for a private word. Nervous, awkward, and barely coherent, he invites her to the Ball. Embarrassed, she apologetically replies that she is going with Cedric Diggory.

Utterly defeated, Harry skips dinner and returns to the Gryffindor common room. There he finds Ron looking as bad as he feels. Ginny says that Ron had just asked Fleur Delacour, who did not even bother to respond. Harry tells Ron she was probably trying to get Cedric to invite her, but Cedric is going with Cho. Ron says that Neville asked Hermione and was turned down. Ron suggests that if he and Harry are unable to find any girls other than "trolls," then they can always ask Hermione and Ginny to go. Hermione angrily responds that she is unavailable and leaves and Ginny says she is going with Neville, though she looks miserable. Harry sees Parvati Patil and Lavender Brown come in. Harry, now somewhat desperate, invites Parvati. She accepts. He also asks Lavender if she will go with Ron, but she is already going with Seamus. Parvati says her sister, Padma, has not been asked yet, and might be willing. Harry feels that this whole Ball thing is far more work than it is worth.

Analysis[edit]

The Twins are corresponding with someone again; one suspects that they are having little success. When they ask to borrow Pigwidgeon, he is unavailable, having not yet returned from delivering a letter to Sirius. Interestingly, Pigwidgeon takes three weeks for the round trip, even though Sirius is in England.

For Harry, not only is finding a Yule Ball date like "the fourth Triwizard Task," it is probably the most daunting. Like most adolescents entering their teen dating years, Hogwarts students are discovering that male-female social relationships are not only complicated, but filled with awkward and embarrassing moments, as well as painful rejections. Although many girls are vying to be Harry's Yule Ball date, his emotional immaturity, which causes him to be unable to adeptly navigate most social situations, leaves him either oblivious or disinterested, and he somewhat rudely rebuffs their attention. When he asks Lavender to go with Ron, she giggles—a trait Harry finds annoying and feels should be outlawed. Ron, who is even more socially immature than Harry, is content to let Harry find him a partner after his own miserable attempts failed. When Harry reveals Fleur's Veela ancestry to Ron, he shows little interest, probably because he is still distraught over humiliating himself with her. Ron also invoked Hermione's ire after insultingly suggesting that she and Ginny could go to the Ball as his and Harry's dates only so they can avoid going with "trolls." Ron is stunned to learn that someone has invited Hermione, and incensed at her refusal to reveal who had offered. The astute reader may sense more than simple friendship revealed by Ron's attitude, though it is clear that Ron doesn't see it.

We note in passing that Lavender seems to be amused at Harry's attempting to invite her as Ron's date. While it is too early for any inference to be made, this may foreshadow Ron and Lavender possibly being paired later.

A relationship may be blossoming between Harry and Cho Chang, and, despite his nervous and clumsy invitation, it appears that she was hoping he would ask her to the Ball. Cho genuinely seemed embarrassed and disappointed that she had already accepted Cedric Diggory's invitation. Harry, also disappointed, now feels some rivalry and resentment towards Cedric, emotions previously absent and that actually could help increase Harry's competitiveness.

Harry's faults are also on display here: although he is disappointed when Cho turns him down, his own reluctance and procrastination in asking her is almost certainly largely responsible, resulting in her accepting Cedric Diggory's invitation when she had not heard anything from Harry. Harry also shows laziness by ignoring the Egg riddle, continually telling others he nearly has it worked out when he has not even begun to work on solving it. When Hermione chastises him for avoiding it, he defends himself, saying there is still time, never considering that even if he solves it, there may be intervening preparations he must make.

Ginny, in this chapter, shows she has matured significantly from the shy, timid, quiet girl we knew in the second book. When Ron starts poking fun at Neville for asking Hermione to the Ball, and indirectly mocks Hermione, apparently to make himself feel a bit better, Ginny has the courage to tell him to stop. Later, when Hermione arrives, Ginny tells her out loud that Harry and Ron were unable to get dates for the Ball. This shows increasing confidence in herself, and significantly less fear of speaking in Harry's presence. Unlike Hermione, however, Ginny appears quite miserable at having to forgo Ron's suggestion that she be Harry's date, even if it is as a "last resort." She may feel that by having accepted Neville's invitation she has missed her chance to be more to Harry than just "Ron's kid sister." Regardless, a more mature, more forward Ginny is firmly established in this scene, and her increased popularity among the series' fans seems to have started here. This new-found assertiveness shows that she is a true Gryffindor.

Although it is a very brief interlude, we should mention Fred's inviting Angelina to the Yule Ball. We cannot speculate to any great extent about why the author chose to include this episode, except that it highlights Fred's (and presumably by extension, George's) confidence in dealing with the opposite sex. Many readers, aware that Fred and George are only two years older than Ron, may find this a bit surprising. It does, however, seem to fit with what we know of the Twins' characters. Additionally, Angelina has been playing Quidditch alongside the Twins for probably five years at this point, and it is safe to assume that they understand one another pretty well at this point. We will not speculate as to why the author chose not to provide George with a date.

Although the Trio seems unconcerned about Rita Skeeter's interview with Hagrid, they should perhaps have paid more attention to the "red flags" that are raised by her particular questions.

Also, a Bezoar stone has been seen before and will be mentioned again. Rowling could be focusing readers' attention on it for a reason, although it may not be significant in this book. Seemingly insignificant people or mundane objects that are spotlighted early on, often become important later in the series.

Questions[edit]

Study questions are meant to be left for each student to answer; please don't answer them here.

Review[edit]

  1. Why is it so difficult for Harry to find a Yule Ball date despite so many girls wanting to go with him?
  2. Why did Harry wait so long to invite Cho Chang?
  3. Why does Harry finally decide to invite Parvati to the Ball?
  4. Why does Ron tease Neville for having invited Hermione to the Ball?

Further Study[edit]

  1. Why does Ginny look miserable after saying she is going to the Ball with Neville?
  2. How might things have turned out differently if Ginny was not Neville's date?
  3. Why does Ginny stand up to Ron? What accounts for her new-found confidence?
  4. Why doesn't Hermione tell anyone who her date for the Ball is? Who might her date be?
  5. Why didn't Ron invite Hermione as his date early on? Did Ron expect anyone (other than Neville) to ask her? Would she have accepted Ron's invitation?

Greater Picture[edit]

Intermediate warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

The Twin's correspondent is probably Ludo Bagman, who has apparently paid off at least some of his gambling debts in Leprechaun gold. At the end of the book, the Twins will write it off as a bad job when Ludo, having lost another bet to the Goblins, runs; but for the moment, they still hope to collect. We will see them attempt to corner Ludo at the Yule Ball, and will see Ludo avoid them.

Ginny's new-found confidence is partially due to Hermione's influence. Ginny had confided her feelings about Harry to Hermione, who encouraged Ginny to just be herself around him. Ginny is beginning to put Hermione's advice into action in this chapter, but it will take some time for her to overcome her shyness and the tension she feels around Harry. One part of Hermione's advice apparently was to stop waiting for Harry, and while we will learn that she can't completely take this advice, we do see her branching out a bit. At the Yule Ball, for instance, which she is attending with Neville, she will meet, and agree to date, Michael Corner. Her relationship with Michael allows her to set aside the hope that Harry will ever reciprocate her feelings. Only then does she feel relaxed enough to show her true self around him, allowing Harry to know the girl she really is. Paradoxically, then, it will be Ginny's surrendering the hope of winning Harry that will allow her, finally, to win him.

The bezoar, which made its first appearance in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and Harry's knowledge about it, plays a significant role in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Connections[edit]

  • The bezoar mentioned here, and its role as an antidote, was introduced in the first book in the series. It will be mentioned again in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, where it will first earn Harry a quick accolade from Professor Slughorn, and shortly afterwards will save Ron's life.
  • This chapter shows a bit of a turning point in the romantic entanglements that are developing in the lives of several characters in the story.
    • For Harry, this is the first overt action of his that indicates an attachment to Cho Chang. This romantic relationship will continue through much of the next book.
    • For Ginny, her letting go of her hopes of Harry noticing her will, in the sixth book, make it possible for Harry to finally notice her.
    • Hermione, who may already have her sights set on Ron, is able to use the invitation she has received for the Yule Ball to incite some jealousy in him. This seems to be an unconscious attempt by Hermione to determine whether Ron has any feelings for her.
    • Ron's jealousy is expressed here, possibly for the first time, though Ron himself does not seem to be aware of it. Ron will, after several missteps, form a relationship with Hermione and they will eventually marry.