The Harry Potter Reread is all gussied up, mainly because it likes the term “gussied.” Why don’t people use it anymore? They should.
This week it’s every teenage nightmare come true! We’re on Chapter 23 of The Goblet of Fire—The Yule Ball.
Index to the reread can be located here! Other Harry Potter and Potter-related pieces can be found under their appropriate tag. And of course, since we know this is a reread, all posts might contain spoilers for the entire series. If you haven’t read all the Potter books, be warned.
Yes, I know, only one chapter this time. I’m pacing it out this way because this one’s a doozy and there’s a lot of information that gets dumped here.
Chapter 23—The Yule Ball
The school is still all a bustle over the holidays with how many students have stayed for the ball. Fred and George are working on new products, and practically everyone has been snuck a canary cream at least once. The house-elves are making lots of rich food to counter the cold weather, and Fleur has taken to complaining about it. Ron keeps trying to get Hermione to admit who is taking her to the ball, but she won’t, insisting that he’ll laugh at her. Malfoy tries to give Hermione a hard time about it too, only to have Hermione put him in a panic by pretending that Professor Moody is behind him.
Ron notices that Hermione’s teeth have changed, and she admits to letting them shrink down a bit smaller than they had been when she was hexed by Malfoy earlier. Apparently she’d wanted to try it before, but her parents wouldn’t hear of it, with them being dentists and all. A letter from Sirius finally arrives, and he praises Harry’s work on the First Task, while warning him to keep a weather eye on Karkaroff. Hermione tells Harry that Sirius is right, and that he should start work on the Second Task, but Harry and Ron play chess instead.
On Christmas morning Harry awakes to Dobby’s face about an inch from his and goes into a bit of a panic. Dobby apologizes, but asks if he can give Harry a Christmas present. Harry says he has one for Dobby too (though he didn’t) and gives Dobby a pair of his old socks, which delights the elf—though he is dismayed to find that the shop where Harry got them would make the mistake of giving him two of the same socks. Ron fixes this by giving Dobby a pair of his socks to mix them up with, plus the sweater he promised. Dobby retreats after praising them both tearfully, and everyone opens the rest of their presents. Then they spend the day hanging in the common room, eating in the Great Hall, and then having a gigantic snowball fight on the grounds. Hermione retreats to get ready for the ball a few hours ahead of time. Eventually the boys head in to get ready as well. The Fat Lady and her painted friend are already wasted in her frame.
Everyone gets into their dress robes and heads to the Great Hall, but Hermione is nowhere to be seen. Harry is ushered off with the other champions to begin the ball, and realizes that the girl with Viktor Krum is Hermione—she has unfrizzed her hair, and is positively glowing with excitement. Everyone is shocked to find her on Krum’s arm, and many are jealous. Parvati steers Harry through their arrival to the ball and they sit at the head table. Barty Crouch Sr.’s place at the table has been taken by Percy Weasley; he’s been promoted to Crouch’s personal assistant.
Percy explains that Crouch isn’t coming because he hasn’t been well since the Cup, suggesting that the man is doing poorly because he had to fire Winky and now his personal health has been comprised due to lack of comfort. There are menus out and people can order by stating what they’d like. Hermione is deep in conversation with Viktor, who is telling her about the Durmstrang grounds. Karkaroff tells Krum not to give away too much about the school, which leads to a discussion about guarding each school’s secrets. Dumbledore insists that he may never known all of Hogwarts’ secrets, and talks of how he needed a restroom once, found a room full of chamber pots, and later came back to find it had vanished.
Everyone eats, Fleur complains about the decorations while her date (Roger Davies, captain of the Ravenclaw Quidditch team) stares at her, and Hermione tries to teach Krum how to pronounce her name correctly. Once dinner is over, the tables are cleared and the Weird Sisters—a wizarding band—begin to play. Harry lets Parvati steer him around the dance floor until everyone is finally up and dancing. Once the song is over, he drags her over to the table where Ron is sitting with Padma and glaring at Hermione. Parvati is asked to dance by a boy from Beauxbatons an abandons Harry when she sees he doesn’t care much. Hermione comes and sits down while Krum is getting them drinks.
Ron starts drilling her. He insists that Krum only asked her to the ball to get dirt on Harry. When Hermione counters that, Ron insists that he’s using her to get help on the Second Task. Harry tries to say that he’s not concerned about Hermione coming as Viktor’s date, but Ron’s determined. Hermione runs off. Padma asks Ron if he’s going to dance with her, and leaves when he says no. Then Percy comes over as Fred and George bother Ludo Bagman. Ludo escapes and comes to Harry’s table, which gets Percy going on about his job. Ron suggests that he and Harry take a walk to get away from his brother.
Once outside they come across Karkaroff talking to Snape. The Durmstrang headmaster is concerned about something coming clearer… Snape says that Igor is welcome to flee, but he will remain at Hogwarts. He’s busying himself by blasting the rosebushes apart and docking house points for the students he finds snogging in them.
Then Harry and Ron come across a private scene with Hagrid and Madame Maxime. Hagrid tells her of his childhood, how his mother left and his father raised him. Then his father died, and Hagrid was on his own once he started school. He tells Madame Maxime that he’s never met another person like him before. She coldly asks what he means, and he says that he’s never met another half-giant before. Maxime is furious, and insists that she’s only big-boned, stalking off. (She frightens Fleur and Roger, who are kissing in a rosebush.)
Ron asks if Harry knew that Hagrid was half-giant, but Harry didn’t and doesn’t understand the relevance of it. They go back in to the ball and sit, and Ron explains to Harry that giants are very dangerous and vicious. They aren’t anymore in Britain—they were dying out and then Aurors killed the rest of them. The boys keep talking it over while everyone else enjoys themselves at the ball.
It’s finally over, and as they’re heading up to bed, Cedric stops Harry on the stairs. He says that he owes him for the warning about the dragons, and suggests Harry take a bath with the golden egg. Harry is understandably perplexed by this instruction, so Cedric suggests that Harry use the Prefect’s bathroom on the fifth floor for privacy and gives him the password. When Harry gets back up to the common room, Ron and Hermione are having a spectacular shouting match. Hermione tells Ron that if he’s so upset about her date, the answer is simple—next time, he should ask her to go with him, and not as a last ditch request. Ron is left gaping and muttering about how Hermione has missed his point… but Harry’s inclined to agree with her.
I call this chapter “If You’re Not Sold on Ron and Hermione as a Couple, You’d Best Get on Board Because This is Happening, Folks.”
Hermione claims that she’s worried that Ron will laugh if she tells him who asked her to the ball, but my guess is that she’s more worried that he won’t believe her. Then Draco comes along with the intention of being a prick, and Hermione gets properly calculating and nasty:
Harry and Ron both whipped around, but Hermione said loudly, waving to somebody over Malfoy’s shoulder, “Hello, Professor Moody!”
Malfoy went pale and jumped backward, looking wildly around for Moody, but he was still up at the staff table, finishing his stew.
“Twitchy little ferret, aren’t you, Malfoy?’ said Hermione scathingly, and she, Harry, and Ron went up the marble staircase laughing heartily.
Damn, Hermione. That was cold as ice. (Please do it all the time.)
The bit about Hermione shrinking her teeth always made me unaccountably jealous. The idea that wizards can fix certain things that cause regular people—especially teenaged ones—so much pain with barely a blink just niggles. And Hermione got to avoid braces for it. I would have given anything to avoid braces. I love that her parents wouldn’t let her try the shrinking beforehand because they’re dentists, and magic is fine elsewhere, but not where they make their living. Of course. But can you imagine being one of the few kids at a wizarding school with braces? And how the kids who grow up in magical families must think they’re terrifying? One year your muggle-born friend comes back with a face full of metal and rubber bands, and you cannot conceive of how any parent could allow something that cruel.
When Harry wakes up to Dobby’s blinking green eyes, all I can think of is how cats and dogs do that thing. The present exchange is sweet, but then I wonder about Dobby’s duties as a house-elf and have to assume that he’s never done laundry. Otherwise he’d have to know that socks come in pairs. (You know Lucius Malfoy isn’t going to stand for a mismatched sock.) Still, the idea that he wouldn’t really “get” matching is adorable. And Dobby having such a wonderful Christmas at his great new job is also teary-making.
So the Fat Lady and her buddy are all drunk in her frame, and I suddenly have so many questions about painting resources. Like, where does the booze come from? Is it in someone else’s frame? Is it eternally replenishing? Does someone have to paint resources for paintings so they can enjoy things? They clearly don’t need food to survive, but is there a painter who just spends her days painting booze for wizard paintings to use? I know it’s just meant to be a funny aside, but I CARE, OKAY?
Ron’s dress robes…. This whole thing is complicated. I feel terrible for him, but then you get to him later in this chapter and I don’t feel bad at all because he’s being a jerk? But feeling crappy about the dress robes contributing to that? I dunno. It just sucks. Wearing things that make you feel like crap sucks. And up until her big reveal, Ron spends basically this entire chapter either asking Hermione who she’s going to the ball with, or asking where she is. He cannot let it go. He has realized that other people in the universe might be interested in Hermione Granger, and this cannot stand.
There are fairies decorating the grounds, and this is not the first time it’s been suggested that fairies have been used as decorations at the school. In Potterverse workings, apparently fairies are vain and don’t mind being decorative. (Okay….) They are classified as a Beast by the Ministry. They cannot speak, but rather buzz to communicate. They also reproduce by laying eggs on the underside of leaves, which then hatch into larvae and make cocoons before emerging as mature fairies. (So, like butterflies.) Apparently, you can remove their wings for potion ingredients without killing them (not like butterflies), but it annoys them because vanity.
According to how the Ministry makes their type classifications, Beasts do not have sufficient intelligence to understand magical law and therefore have no responsibility in creating those laws. Centaurs and Merpeople specifically asked to be given this classification because they didn’t want “Being” status if it meant they got grouped in with Vampires and Hags and their ilk. Werewolves are only classified as Beasts when they are transformed. (Because that’s not problematic at ALL.)
The ball starts and no one quite recognizes Hermione at first. This is pretty darned relevant, and not just because of her “makeover” here. In fact, I’d argue that the dress and the sleek hair really aren’t what’s making Hermione hard to recognize; it’s her excitement. The glee over being picked by someone like Krum, being noticed in that manner, getting to dress up and reveal it to the whole school, getting to be the center of attention in a new way. The dress and updo aren’t the important part here—it’s all about Hermione learning to enjoy a different, more grown up part of herself. And it’s adorable. Of course, Hermione is muggle-born, which makes me think that Karkaroff is probably pretty unhappy with Krum’s choice of date. He might not know if he never asked Viktor, but that’s not what he’s training his students to think.
When Percy announces his promotion to Harry at the ball, we get this:
“I’ve been promoted,” Percy said before Harry could even ask, and from his tone, he might have been announcing his election as supreme ruler of the universe.
…which pretty much sums up Percy’s estimation of himself in all things, so yeah. There’s that.
Dumbledore mentions finding a room full of chamber pots when he had to use the bathroom, which is a reference to what we will later know as the Room of Requirement. When he mentions it, he winks at Harry and Harry probably assumes that the headmaster having a laugh, but it’s really just Albus slipping him clues as he is wont to do. The band starts playing and Harry gets his first look at the Weird Sisters (who are all guys), which was named for the three witches in Macbeth, and maybe also Twisted Sister, since they were also an all-guy band.
Harry immediately leaves the dance floor to talk to Ron, which is shitty. Ron is sitting and staring at Hermione while not dancing with Padma, which is shitty. Parvati leaves when a boy from Beauxbatons offers her a dance, so thank goodness for that. Then Hermione sits down and is all fluttery and just so happy, and Ron shatters that by being an arse. And the whole fight is awkward as hell to read because every argument he makes is so transparent. She knows it and she leaves, and Padma realizes that her date is a bust, so she goes and joins her sister. At least all the ladies are trying to make a go of having a nice night?
Look, I get it, Ron is having a hard enough time already; he didn’t even ask his own date out (and he barely knows her), he hates what he’s wearing, his BFF is one of the champions and the girl that he fancies is stepping out with another one of the champions, a guy that Ron admired. It’s a rough situation for him. But he handles it by trying to make it seem as though Hermione is the one who is doing wrong. He literally tries to divert his own wrongness onto her. It’s painfully real, all of it. My guess is that Ron probably ends up apologizing for this one for years to come. Because it seems simple, but it’s super damaging. He hurt Hermione by not considering her in the first place, and now he’s ruining her beautiful evening because he feels like an idiot for not seeing what was right in front of him. Ugh, I love all of you and you are all so dumb, stop hurting, everybody hug.
We get another clue that the Weasley twins are trying to close in on Bagman, but we still have no idea what it’s about. Percy creates the world’s most boring work conversation because he’s good at that, giving Ron a good excuse to suggest that he and Harry take a walk.
They stumble upon Snape and Karkaroff having an interesting conversation, and frankly, Karkaroff is an idiot for trying to have a talk about THE FLIPPING DARK MARK at a giant party where all the kids are hanging around in bushes and capable of accidentally hearing every word he’s saying. Like Harry and Ron are. This conversation was properly mysterious the first time around since we didn’t know anything about the Dark Mark tattoos, but on a reread it’s really just fun to focus in on Snape destroying joy by exposing all the kids who are trying to get in a private moment behind a rosebush.
Wait, aren’t rosebushes covered in thorns?
So we get to Madame Maxime and Hagrid, and these are the first real words that we’ve heard on Hagrid’s parentage. And of course, the first question I have is how the hell did Hagrid’s dad woo a giantess in the first place? Because this is clearly where Hagrid gets a majority of his personality from, his desire to see the tender side of dangerous beings. We don’t get any idea of why he died, however, which is unfortunate. Hagrid is keen to find out more about Madame Maxime’s background, and how could he not be? For all he knows, there has never been another half-giant in the history of the world. The fact that his parents could produce a child at all is shocking. But Madame Maxime denies the whole thing—and she has good reason to.
Ron takes Harry back inside and lets him in on the wizard perspective on giants, which is essentially that they’re monsters. Vicious and cruel and violent. But giants are still counted as Beings under the Ministry classification system, and that’s extremely relevant; there are others that don’t get classified that way, though they are similar by all accounts. For example, sphinxes are dangerous to humans, though they are seemingly sentient and intelligent… and they are classified as Beasts. Giants are much the same, so we have to ask ourselves: why are they classified differently?
We learn from Ron that the giants are mostly wiped out because their numbers were already dwindling and then they got killed off by Aurors. What he doesn’t mention is that this happened during the First Wizarding War against Voldemort. And the reason why they fought (according to what we hear later from Dumbledore) is because old Voldy convinced them that he would give them proper freedom and rights. The actions of the giants during that war means that the majority of the magical community views them as dangerous monsters. So the more serious brand of prejudice here is fairly recent among wizards, and the result has nearly cause the genocide of an entire species. They are still classified as Beings by the Ministry because they deserve that classification. They are sentient and intelligent and incredibly powerful. But the wizarding world is currently choosing to ignore that.
That doesn’t mean that giants are not dangerous, but it is disturbing in the extreme.
The dance finally ends and Harry gets that clue from Cedric. Which is wonderfully weird, and more confusing coming off of the ball. Then Harry gets upstairs to find Ron and Hermione having a proper row about the debacle during the dance, and Hermione lays it out; if Ron is so very jealous, maybe he should have been less of a jerk and asked her to the dance first. And you know what? A hundred points to Gryffindor on that one, because saying that took guts, especially after Ron spent half the evening tearing her down.
And the thing I appreciate most about it from a narrative standpoint is Harry being so sharp about the whole thing, even if it’s only in his head. He knows Hermione is right, even if he knows that telling Ron isn’t worth it. He has no delusions about who has been wronged here.
Emmet Asher-Perrin wishes that Snape had made it weirder for the students by insisting on giving them safe sex advice when he found them in the bushes. You can bug her on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.