The Yule Ball

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Chapter 23 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: The Yule Ball← Chapter 22 | Chapter 24 →

Synopsis[edit]

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

Although it is the end of term, hardly anyone has left the school, and despite the homework assigned for the break, Harry enjoys himself in the week between the term's end and Christmas. Ron is still trying to learn who Hermione's Yule Ball date is. Ron also notices that she looks different. Hermione explains that after Draco's misfired spell, she had Madam Pomfrey shrink her teeth to smaller than their original size. Pigwidgeon returns with Sirius' letter, congratulating Harry, and says he would have suggested a Conjunctivitus spell to blind the dragon. He warns Harry to watch himself around Karkaroff. Hermione suggests that Harry should work on deciphering the Egg's secret. Harry demurs, claiming the common room is always too noisy to hear any message in the screechy noises.

On Christmas day, Harry is awakened by Dobby bringing him presents: handmade socks, one red with broomsticks, and one green, with Snitches. To reciprocate, Harry gives Dobby the horrible mustard-colored socks that he had wrapped his Sneakoscope in. Dobby is ecstatic, socks are his favorite clothing. Ron also gives him some mauve socks and the sweater he received. Dobby, almost overwhelmed by Ron's generosity, returns to the kitchen where preparations for the Ball are underway.

At around 5:00 p.m. Hermione leaves to get ready for the Ball. Ron asks if she really needs three hours and again asks who she is going with, but she says nothing. Ron is highly embarrassed by his robes, which look more like a dress, though he has removed the tatty lace. Harry meets Parvati, dressed in bright pink robes, in the common room, and they and the other Gryffindors proceed to the Entry Hall. Clad in turquoise robes, Padma is rather aghast at Ron's appearance; Ron just wants to hide from Fleur Delacour, who is attending with Roger Davies.

The Slytherins arrive, and neither Crabbe nor Goyle has a date. The Durmstrang students enter from outside; Viktor Krum is accompanied by a pretty girl Harry does not initially recognize. Professor McGonagall summons the Champions, who will enter last, in procession. Looking at the other Champions, Harry suddenly recognizes Krum's date: it is Hermione. She has straightened her hair, and her posture is different. Others are also surprised by her changed appearance; Parvati is astonished, and Ron walks past without looking at her. Krum's female fan club glare at Hermione.

In the Great Hall, small tables have replaced the long House tables. The four Champions and their dates are seated at the head table, along with Professor Dumbledore, Madame Maxime, Professor Karkaroff, Ludo Bagman, and – surprisingly – Percy Weasley, who is substituting for Mr. Crouch. Percy excitedly tells Harry he has been promoted to Mr. Crouch's personal assistant. The Tournament preparations have apparently left Mr. Crouch stressed and fatigued, especially after he dismissed his House-elf – "Blinky, or whatever her name is" – and now sends instructions by owl from home to the office.

Krum tells Hermione that Durmstrang castle is smaller and less comfortable than Hogwarts, having only four floors. Karkaroff warns him about sharing too much information and revealing Durmstrang's location, though Professor Dumbledore suggests there may be too much concern over secrecy. Karkaroff asks if Dumbledore is not happier he alone knows all Hogwarts' secrets. Dumbledore responds that he would never presume to knows all the school's secrets. Only recently he stumbled upon a room filled with chamber pots that he had never seen before and has been unable to find since.

After dinner, the tables are magically swept aside, and a stage with a band rises against one wall. As the music starts, Parvati drags Harry to his feet, saying that they are supposed to dance. Soon the floor fills with other couples, many worse dancers than Harry. Neville frequently steps on Ginny's feet. Professor Moody compliments Harry on his socks, causing Parvati to comment that his magical eye is rather creepy.

After the first song ends, Harry sits with Ron and Padma. Both Parvati and Padma are disgruntled that they do not get to dance again. Parvati finally leaves to dance with a Beauxbatons boy. An elated Hermione floats over, but Ron attacks her for "fraternizing with the enemy." Heated words are exchanged, and Hermione angrily disappears into the crowd. Padma also leaves, joining Parvati. Viktor appears looking for Hermione, and he is also dismissed by Ron. Percy comes over, talking about how the Tournament is meant to foster international co-operation, and it is great that Ron is making friends with Krum. Ludo Bagman is intercepted by the Weasley twins. He shakes them off, heading over to talk to Harry. He claims the Twins were asking about marketing assistance for their trick wands. Harry is certain Percy will report this to Mrs. Weasley. Harry and Ron escape as Percy talks shop with Ludo.

Outside in the rose garden, Karkaroff is talking with Professor Snape about something that is becoming more distinct. Snape suggests that Karkaroff can run for it if he is that worried. Harry and Ron wonder how these two got on a first-name basis. Harry and Ron overhear another conversation between Madame Maxime and Hagrid. Hagrid reveals he is half-giant and suggests that Madame Maxime is the same. She indignantly insists she is just big-boned and stalks off. Ron asks Harry if he knew Hagrid was half-giant. Harry says no, but so what? Ron mentions that wizards generally fear Giants because they are mindlessly vicious. This fear may carry over to Hagrid, at least among those who do not know him.

Back in the Hall, Harry and Ron continue discussing Giants. There are apparently none left in England. They were already dying out, but many were killed by Aurors. Those left are somewhere in the European mountains. Ron says he does not know who Madame Maxime thinks she is kidding; there is no way she could be just big-boned.

The Ball ends at midnight. Hermione heads to Gryffindor tower, shooting Ron a cold look as she passes. Cedric calls Harry aside. Because Harry helped him with the dragon, it is only fair that he should return the favor. He suggests Harry take a bath with his Egg and tells him how to get into the Prefect's bathroom. Harry, apart from his resentment over Cedric being Cho Chang's date, is uncertain how to react to this, so he says nothing.

Reaching the Gryffindor common room, Harry finds Ron and Hermione in a shouting match. Hermione tells Ron that if he does not like it then, "The next time there's a Ball, ask me before someone else does, and not as a last resort!" She storms off to her dormitory. Ron, stunned, says Hermione is quite clearly missing the point. Harry privately thinks Hermione has a much clearer idea about what Ron is feeling than Ron does.

Analysis[edit]

Although the Yule Ball is a disappointment for Harry and Ron, as well as for their hapless dates, their later stroll through the rose garden provides much character information. Karkaroff knows that he is in poor standing with surviving Death Eaters. As revealed earlier by Sirius, he named names to avoid Azkaban. Something could be causing Karkaroff to believe that the Dark Lord may be returning to power. This could be causing Karkaroff to consider disappearing to save himself, either from Death Eaters or Voldemort. Snape, however, seems unconcerned for his own safety, indicating that he may believe he retains, or can regain, the Dark Lord's favor.

Harry and Ron also learn that Hagrid is half-Giant, a fact he has apparently kept secret, though it has been rather obvious to most everyone else, including Hermione. An insulted Madame Maxime, however, vehemently denies any similar ancestry, though this seems futile: nobody could see her and believe she just "[h]as big bones". Harry also seems oblivious to the deep-seated fear and prejudice towards Giants that many wizards have, which explains why Hagrid and Madame Maxime would conceal their mutual heritage. In general, wizards' fear may be partially justified—giants are prone to unprovoked violence, though in this case, Hagrid and Madame Maxime are only part giant and both have gentle natures. Prejudice and discrimination are continual themes throughout the series, most notably through Hermione's efforts to liberate House-elves.

One noteworthy fact is the order of these revelations. Clearly, that both Karkaroff and Snape may be, or have been, Death Eaters, is worth additional examination. Why then do Harry and Ron fail to discuss this further, and perhaps reach the conclusion that Snape is or was a Death Eater, despite what Sirius previously told them? Because Hagrid's confession to Madame Maxime takes precedence, casting it from their minds. This bit of literary legerdemain allows the author to foreshadow revelations later in the book and in the series, while managing to mask that revelation's weight by having the characters effectively dismiss it.

And though Hermione's efforts to liberate House-elves are seemingly frustrated, she may be having a positive effect in another way as seen when Ron gives Dobby some cast-off clothing. This kind act is something he probably never would have considered if not for both Hermione's and Harry's influence—Harry treats Dobby as a friend, and Hermione believes House-elves deserve equal rights. This may be a small milestone in Ron's maturation, as for once, he is thoughtful about someone other than himself, his immediate family, or his close friends Harry and Hermione. Without this example, it is unlikely Ron would ever consider House-elves as anything more than subhuman servants, even liberated ones like Dobby.

While Hermione has perhaps unknowingly sown a seed in Ron's consciousness, this is only a very tiny step towards her plan to liberate the house-elves. If she is to accomplish her goal, she must change both House-elves and the general Wizarding community's thinking. While this may be possible, it is a daunting challenge. Many wizards will simply oppose liberating House-elves for any reason, but others may be resistant solely because once House-elves are freed, they would no longer be bound to protect their former masters' secrets.

The Yule Ball has yielded several other unexpected outcomes: Ron and Hermione's long simmering and deeply buried feelings for one another are brought closer to the surface, though they can only express themselves with mutual jealousy, anger, and immature bickering. In addition to his seeing Hermione with Krum, Hermione's blossoming beauty also seems to have had a strong effect on Ron, forcing him to see her differently, though exactly what that difference is seems unclear to him.

Harry, meanwhile, is no closer to solving the Egg riddle, and does little to figure it out, despite Hermione's constant prodding. In appreciation for Harry tipping him off about the Dragon task, Cedric helps Harry with the Egg. However, rather than outright telling Harry what he needs to know, as Harry did with the Dragons, Cedric instead only provides a hint so Harry can solve it himself. But Harry's stubbornness and resentment over Cedric dating Cho Chang may prevent his using this valuable information.

Also, Mr. Crouch's health is apparently deteriorating. In the meeting with the Champions at Hallowe'en, he seemed unwell enough that Dumbledore actually suggested that he might want to spend the night at Hogwarts. In what seems a logical progression, he is now so ill that he is unable to attend the Triwizard ceremonies and Percy has been deputed to fill in for him.

As a complete aside, we note Moody's comment on Harry's socks. Parvati says that she finds Moody's magical eye to be "creepy". Harry's reaction is somewhat muted, but we can't help but agree: if Moody can see Harry's socks, presumably through his formal robes and perhaps his trousers (if he's wearing trousers beneath his robes) and shoes, then all clothes must equally be optionally transparent to Moody. While it is clearly a good thing for an Auror to be able to perceive weapons concealed by voluminous garments, it can also be used for less savory purposes, and we note that the operator of this magical eye is a teacher in a school with hundreds of underage students of both sexes. We can only wonder whether the author had made this particular connection when she wrote this ability into Professor Moody's eye.

Attention should be paid to Professor Dumbledore mentioning the room with the chamber pots, as well as the beetle crawling on the stone reindeer during Hagrid's conversation with Madame Maxime.

Questions[edit]

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

Review[edit]

  1. Why doesn't Harry recognize Krum's date? What is Ron's reaction?
  2. Why is Madame Maxime insulted when Hagrid suggests she is half-giant?
  3. Why is Harry conflicted about accepting Cedric's help with the Egg?
  4. What are Ron and Hermione arguing about? Who is right, if either? Explain.

Further Study[edit]

  1. Why wouldn't Hermione reveal who her Yule Ball date is?
  2. Why would the long tables in the Great Hall be replaced by smaller ones?
  3. Why does Cedric only offer Harry a hint about the Egg, rather than telling him outright how to solve it?
  4. Is Harry just being irresponsible about the second task or is there an ulterior motive to his indifference? What might be the real reason that Harry rebuffs Hermione's suggestion that he work on solving the Egg's clue?

Greater Picture[edit]

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

We will discover that Mr. Crouch's deteriorating health is subterfuge: Mr. Crouch is actually the Dark Lord's servant, being controlled by Peter Pettigrew (Wormtail). Wormtail's control over him has always been rather shaky; rather than risk his increasing eccentricity being discovered, Voldemort confines Mr. Crouch to his house, where he and Wormtail are hiding, and restricts communication to an easier-to-fake method. Percy will be reprimanded later by his superiors for failing to detect Mr. Crouch's odd behavior, although they may be using Percy as a scapegoat to deflect blame away from themselves.

At the Yule Ball, Karkaroff says that something is becoming more distinct. This is likely the "Dark Mark" on his forearm — the Death Eaters' sign. It becoming more visible is an indication that Voldemort is gaining strength, perhaps is close to returning. Having informed on Death Eaters, Karkaroff knows that he will likely be killed if Voldemort returns to power, and clearly is planning to bolt in that eventuality.

Later, we learn that the beetle, mentioned above, is actually Rita Skeeter, in her unregistered Animagus form. She will write a story about Hagrid's half-Giant ancestry which will prove devastating to him; this is where she learns of it, though she clearly does some research after hearing the bare fact from Hagrid.

The chamber-pot filled room Dumbledore mentions seems to be the Room of Requirement, which he apparently never knew existed, and will play a large role in each succeeding book. When Hermione is reluctant to use the room for their secret student meetings (in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), Harry allays her fears by saying Dumbledore had told him about it. Readers will also learn that the room only appears when someone needs it, and it comes equipped with whatever is necessary to fulfill that need. It is curious, then, why Dumbledore (or anyone) would require a room filled with so many chamber pots.

Also, Cedric only gives Harry a hint about the Egg rather than telling him the solution, wanting Harry to solve it for himself. Harry will still need some additional help to figure it out, however, which he receives from Moaning Myrtle.

The final scene is crucial to Ron and Hermione's evolving relationship. In about a year's time, Hermione will comment that Ron has "the emotional depth of a teaspoon"; it is apparent to the reader now, and will still be the case then, that he is having serious feelings for Hermione though he is unable to understand just what they are or how to react to them.

Still unknown to us, a turning point in Snape's life occurs in this chapter. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, one of the memories that Snape passes on to Harry is of himself and Dumbledore watching students return to their common rooms after the Ball. Snape tells Dumbledore that his Dark Mark is growing more distinct, Karkaroff's also; we will also view that scene in Dumbledore's memories in the Pensieve later in this book. When Snape goes on to say that Karkaroff may run, Dumbledore asks if Snape would be following; Snape responds that his place is at Dumbledore's side, always. Following this remark, Dumbledore muses that perhaps students are Sorted too soon. Snape, who was Sorted into Slytherin House and away from his beloved Lily Evans, who was a Gryffindor, is stunned at the thought.

Connections[edit]

  • Snape and Dumbledore's conversation as the students return to their dormitories will be revisited, briefly in this book, and again in the final book. Dumbledore, we will hear, hints that he believes Snape a better fit for a house other than Slytherin, shocking Snape.
  • We see a step forward in the romantic relationship between Ron and Hermione in this chapter. Ron's jealousy of Hermione and Krum is extremely visible in this chapter, to everyone except Ron himself. Ron will not recognize his feelings for what they are until late in the sixth book.
  • Dumbledore's mention of the "room filled with chamber pots" is the first mention of the Room of Requirement, which will be used extensively for Dumbledore's Army meetings in the next book, by Draco Malfoy for his mission in the following book, and as a hideout for Dumbledore's Army members in the final book.