|Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Major Event|
|Location||Hogwarts, Great Hall|
|Time Period||Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 25 December|
|Important Characters||Harry, Cedric Diggory, Viktor Krum, Fleur Delacour, Cho Chang, Ron, Hermione|
As a part of the Triwizard Tournament, there is traditionally a dance at the hosting school. This dance, the Yule Ball, is normally led off by the three Champions and their partners; in Harry's fourth year, of course, there are four champions, and thus four couples leading off the Ball. Harry has a dreadful time finding a date for the Ball. Once at the Ball, he overhears a significant conversation between Snape and Karkaroff, followed shortly by an important admission by Hagrid. At the end of the ball, Cedric Diggory gives Harry a clue to the Second Task.
Shortly after his success in the First Task, Harry is stunned by hearing about the Yule Ball from Professor McGonagall. He is quite alarmed when told that, as one of the Champions, he is expected to find a dance partner, learn to dance and lead off the whole ball. This looming dread is not at all lightened by the realization that nearly everyone at the school – or, at least, everyone who is allowed to attend the Ball – is planning to stay over Christmas. The ball is restricted to those in the fourth year and above, although younger students can attend as the guest of a fourth-year or older student.
Harry immediately thinks of Cho Chang as a possible dance partner for the ball, but every time he finds her, she is travelling in a convoy of giggling girls; horribly embarrassed, he thinks that giggling should be outlawed. In hopes of actually being able to ask Cho, Harry turns down several invitations from other girls, possibly in part because he doesn't believe they can be serious. Finally, on the last day of classes, Harry takes Cho aside and asks her, only to find that she has already accepted an invitation from Cedric. Cho seems almost as disappointed as Harry at this turn of events, but that is cold comfort; handsome, capable, likeable Cedric is in so many ways what Harry would like to be, and here he has even gotten the girl that Harry wanted.
Returning to the common room, Harry finds that Ron is in the same situation – in what he attributes to a fit of madness, Ron has asked Fleur Delacour, and she has not even done him the dignity of turning him down, simply ignoring him. Harry takes the opportunity to mention that Fleur is part Veela, and had likely been using her inherited glamour to ensnare Roger Davies; Ron does not seem cheered by the possibility that he was simply caught by spillover magic. Ron asks Hermione, and suggests that Harry could go with Ginny, only to find that they, too, have already agreed to go with someone else. In desperation, Harry asks Parvati Patil. She accepts; Harry asks if Lavender would be willing to go with Ron, but Lavender already has a date. Parvati suggests that her sister, Padma, would probably be willing to go with Ron.
The Yule Ball takes place on Christmas Day, between the First and Second Tasks of the Triwizard Tournament. It is a festive event featuring dancing, in this case to music provided by the Weird Sisters. Students dress in their best formal clothes. Males wear dress robes, which is probably why dress robes were on the supplies list this year; females wear gowns or other formal attire. While students should have partners for the ball, apparently not all do; Harry is pleased to see that Crabbe and Goyle do not seem to have partners. The four Champions enter the hall last: Cedric Diggory with Cho Chang, Fleur Delacour with Roger Davies, Viktor Krum with Hermione, so prettily done up that Harry does not initially recognize her, and Harry with Parvati.
At dinner, Harry is surprised to find that Mr. Crouch is not present; Percy is, and explains that he is filling in for Mr Crouch, who is feeling ill. Once dinner is over, a dance floor is cleared, and Parvati guides Harry out onto the floor as the music starts up; the four Champions and their partners are quickly joined by classmates and teachers. At the end of the first dance, Harry chooses to leave the floor, much to Parvati's disgust; they go and join Ron and Padma, who apparently alone have sat out the first dance, and Padma and Parvati, deciding that they are unlikely to get much more dancing out of Ron and Harry, find other partners. Ron and Harry wander out into a rose garden that has been magically created outside the Entrance Hall, where they overhear Professor Karkaroff and Professor Snape discussing something that is getting more and more distinct, and whether Karkaroff should run away. They then stumble upon Hagrid and Madame Maxime deep in a private conversation; in the course of that conversation, Hagrid reveals that he is half-giant, and suggests that he believes Madame Maxime is also. Madame Maxime is affronted and departs in a huff. Hagrid then goes off to his hut, and Harry and Ron return inside to discuss this development.
Up until this point, Harry and Cho's relationship has been unstated; there are indications that there is a very early romance between them, but for all we know it could be entirely in Harry's head. By choosing to ask Cho to the Ball, Harry is effectively declaring their relationship, and Cho's response is nicely crafted to indicate that she would be pleased with the prospect. Harry's being deterred by the gaggle of giggling girls in which Cho seems to move is all too realistic; one wonders, though, if his inability to separate her from them might indicate that he is not quite ready to progress to that firm a relationship.
At dinner, Professor Dumbledore mentions finding a room that was full of chamber pots, and then never being able to find it again. This is the first mention of the Room of Requirement, which Harry will find very useful in later books; it is because Dumbledore has mentioned it to him that Harry feels justified in using it for his Defence Against the Dark Arts classes, once he has been told how to find it.
The discussion we overhear between Karkaroff and Snape is, we find out later, an indication of the increasing power of Lord Voldemort; by now we know that Karkaroff was a Death Eater, and we suspect that Snape was also. We have heard from Sirius that Karkaroff is in bad odour with the other Death Eaters for having named names to keep his own freedom. Ron and Harry do not know how Snape and Karkaroff got to be on a first-name basis. Harry has reason to believe that Voldemort is gaining power, and so may believe that Snape and Karkaroff were both Death Eaters, and are discussing Death Eater business. This is largely driven out of Harry and Ron's mind, however, by the scene between Hagrid and Madame Maxime that they inadvertently witness.
The scene between Hagrid and Madame Maxime is witnessed by another party as well. Rita Skeeter, in her Animagus form as a large beetle, is in earshot and promptly writes a story about Hagrid, his tendency to keep truly dangerous and often proscribed creatures, and his half-Giant ancestry. It seems that this last item was something she needed to tie the story together because she had the other components of the story long before this. As a result of this story, Hagrid goes into seclusion in his hut and tenders his resignation as Care of Magical Creatures teacher. Professor Dumbledore refuses to accept his resignation, and after a week Hagrid returns to his teaching duties.
Cho may have mentioned to Cedric that Harry had invited her to the Yule Ball; it is certain that Cedric feels kindly disposed to Harry by the end of the evening, because he takes Harry aside, and gives him a very large hint towards deciphering the Golden Egg, which is the necessary clue to the Second Task. Cedric does this, he says, out of a sense of fairness; Harry, after all, had clued him into the dragons in the First Task.
Ron spends the first part of the Ball watching Hermione jealously as she dances with Viktor Krum. When she stops by Ron's table after the second dance, he accuses her angrily of "consorting with the enemy"; hot words are exchanged, and Hermione vanishes in the crowd. Ron is then very short with Krum, who until then had been a hero of his. After the ball, Harry steps into the Gryffindor common room, only to catch the end of a flaming row between Hermione and Ron. Hermione ends the argument by saying "Next time there's a ball, ask me before someone else does, and not as a last resort!", and stalks off to the girl's dormitory. Ron has no idea what's going on; he quite obviously has not detected that his own feelings are, in fact, jealousy, though Hermione, and apparently Harry, can see Ron's true feelings quite plainly.
One of the strengths of the Potter series of books lies in its realistic portrayal of the characters. It would, perhaps, have been simpler for the author to have Harry be entirely focused on his quest, but that would significantly weaken the writing, as we would be less likely to care about a hero who cared about little outside his one main objective. The entire episode of the Yule Ball could have been seen as an attempt to inject romance arbitrarily into a piece of heroic fantasy, except that it is done in such a way as totally with our expectations of the maturing Trio. Harry and Ron are fourteen, and Hermione is fifteen, as this episode unfolds, and it is the appropriate time for them to begin noticing the difference between boys and girls. It is all the more realistic that Ron, portrayed as the least sensitive of the three, does not recognize his own feelings.
The Yule Ball shares the characteristics of Muggle school formals, balls and proms. While students are excited about these events, there is also a great deal of anxiety and stress to overcome. Pressures include securing a partner and acquiring appropriate formal attire. At Hogwarts, like other secondary schools, teenage insecurities about peer approval, social skills and self-image are amplified with the Yule Ball. While readers may be as dismayed as Parvati and Padma that Harry dances only once and Ron, not at all, this is entirely normal behaviour for boys of their age. We must remember that, despite all the adventures they have been having, Harry and Ron are only fourteen years of age, and their fear of looking foolish still overwhelms their desire to form relationships with the opposite sex.
It is never mentioned, but it is quite likely that, had Harry not been a Champion, the lower limit on age for attendees of the Ball would be fifth, or even sixth, year. The original plan had Champions being of age, 17 or older, so all the Champions would be sixth or seventh year, and everyone younger would likely have been excluded. It is possible that Harry would have greatly preferred to have been excluded from the Ball; it certainly would have saved him the embarrassment he subjected himself to while trying to find a date.
It is worth drawing attention to events in the rose garden. Two events happen which are of interest to us and the students; there is the conversation between Snape and Karkaroff and the conversation between Hagrid and Madame Maxime. The ordering of these two is important, in that this contributes to a deliberate misdirection on the part of the author. Clearly, to the story arc, Snape's discussion is the more important, bearing as it apparently does on Dark matters; however, Hagrid's revelation of his Giant background happens shortly after that. It is the latter that remains strongest in Harry's mind, and that is the one that Harry and Ron discuss, to the exclusion of the former, for the rest of the evening. If Harry and Ron had spent time considering the ramifications of Snape's conversation, it is possible that Harry could have linked that to Karkaroff's having been a Death Eater, and so determined something about Voldemort's progress.
We will revisit the Yule Ball in a later part of the story, albeit briefly. Shortly, in Dumbledore's Pensieve, we will see Snape commenting about how something is becoming more distinct. While we can suppose that this ties in to the discussion between Snape and Karkaroff in the Rose Garden, and their later discussion in the Potions classroom while Harry is cleaning up his armadillo bile, we can't be certain. In Snape's memories revealed in the final book, we learn that Snape made this comment as he and Dumbledore watched the students returning to the dormitories following the Yule Ball and that it was regarding the Dark Mark on his and Karkaroff's forearms. At that time, Snape apparently told Dumbledore of Karkaroff's intent to run when Voldemort reappeared and re-affirmed his own intent to stay with Dumbledore.
We will also learn later that Karkaroff does run when the Mark burns black with Voldemort's summons, and that Snape remains with Dumbledore even past Dumbledore's death. Karkaroff later turns up dead, in a shack with the Dark Mark floating overhead.
Roger Davies will resurface also. Harry and Ron are quite insecure when it comes to girls, like most boys their age, and a certain extent hero-worship those older and more confident boys who seem to have better luck with girls. The two boys who are mentioned as being "all Harry would like to be" are Roger Davies and Cedric Diggory. Later, possibly in an attempt to get some response from Harry regarding their future together, Cho will mention that Roger Davies had asked her out but that she had refused. It is because Harry sees Roger as being so far beyond him in terms of desirability, most likely, that this does not have the anticipated effect; Cho may have wanted to inspire mild jealousy, but instead only fueled Harry's insecurity.