In Chapter 23, it’s Yule Ball shenanigans! Let’s go!
Hogwarts is crazy in the weeks leading up to Christmas break. Fred and George are hard at work — just not school work. They have perfected their “Canary Cream” treats that make people burst into feathers, and George tells Harry that they are working on something else. It’s also nice and snowy. I love the idea of Hogwarts in the snow. What better way to spend the holidays?
Ron is so obsessed with finding out who Hermione is going to the ball with, it’s not even funny. He keeps bringing up the question, over and over, trying to trick her into saying who it is. Hermione is too smart for that though, of course, but she has something else going for her that has boosted her confidence a bit. When Malfoy makes a crack about how shocked he is that someone had asked “the long-molared Mudblood” to the ball, Hermione plays quite the trick on him.
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.
Hermione is the best. The absolute best.
Here’s the thing, too — her big teeth, that she had been self-conscious about forever are no longer quite so big. When she got hit with the spell, Madam Pomfrey helped her shrink her teeth back to normal size, and Hermione let her “carry on a bit.” So now she has a “very different smile,” which makes her very happy indeed.
They are interrupted by the arrival of Ron’s little owl, Pig, with another letter from Sirius. He is very proud of how Harry handled the dragon, but wants him to continue to look out for himself and to write again if anything unusual happens. Hermione really wants Harry to take a look at the egg, but Harry is enjoying not worrying about that a little too much. He’s just not ready to think about it yet.
Christmas Day arrives with a visit from Dobby, who has brought Harry a present. Harry gives Dobby a pair of old socks that Uncle Vernon had given him, and Dobby is delighted, although he thinks that the store made a mistake, selling two socks that were the same. Dobby sure likes his mismatched socks! Ron gives him a pair of socks along with the sweater that Mrs. Weasley had knitted.
“Sir is very kind! he squeaked, his eyes brimming with tears again, bowing deeply to Ron. “Dobby knew sir must be a great wizard, for he is Harry Potter’s greatest friend, but Dobby did not know that he was also as generous of spirit, as noble, as selfless –“
Dobby really hasn’t had much experience with normal people at Christmas.
Also, Dobby’s present to Harry: socks! Quidditch socks, with pictures of broomsticks and Snitches. Dobby makes them himself, and from the sound of it, is pretty good at it! Yay Dobby!
They spend the day enjoying Christmas breakfast, more time with presents, Christmas lunch, and then a snowball fight on the grounds. Then Hermione leaves to get ready for the ball, although Ron doesn’t understand why Hermione needs three hours to do so. Clearly Ron has been raised in a house full of boys. Finally, it’s time for the boys to get ready, which they do nervously. Ron tries to use magic to remove the lace from his old dress robes, which mostly works.
Downstairs, Parvati is waiting for them and says that her sister, Padma, is going to meet them in the entrance hall. Ron greets her, but can’t stop scanning the crowd trying to find Hermione. Dude! You should have figured out by now that you like Hermione! If you had just admitted that in the first place, we wouldn’t be in this situation, now would we! Finally, the champions are called forward. Cedric and Cho are there, along with Fleur and her date (a Ravenclaw boy), and Krum and . . . Hermione! But a very, very different Hermione than what Harry is used to seeing.
But she didn’t look like Hermione at all. She had done something with her hair; it was no longer bushy but sleek and shiny, and twisted up into an elegant knot at the back of her head. She was wearing robes made of a floaty, periwinkle-blue material, and she was holding herself differently, somehow — or maybe it was merely the absence of the twenty or so books she usually had slung over her back. She was also smiling — rather nervously, it was true — but the reduction in the size of her front teeth was more noticeable than ever; Harry couldn’t understand how he hadn’t spotted it before.
Hermione greets them happily and Parvati is absolutely stunned by her transformation, as is everyone else. Except Ron, who walks right past her (I wonder if he even recognized her, since she looks so different) and Karkaroff (who glares at her as she walks up with Krum). Harry notices that Mr. Crouch isn’t there, but instead Percy Weasley has come in his place, as Mr. Crouch’s assistant.
During the feast, Harry overhears Krum telling Hermione a bit about Durmstrang, interrupted by Karkaroff who “jokes” about Krum revealing all their secrets Overall, Krum seems quite impressed with Hogwarts, although Fleur is not. She is telling everyone around her how amazing Beauxbatons is at Christmas. There is also a very cute moment where Hermione is trying to teach Krum how to pronounce her name properly. Which I’m sure was added to help all the readers learn how to pronounce her name properly. I was lucky enough to read the books after the movies had come out, so I had heard it beforehand, but I don’t know if I would have pronounced it right just reading it on the page. Probably not.
After the feast, it’s the dreaded dance, with the champions opening everything. Harry ignores Dean and Seamus laughing and tries to focus on dancing (“Parvati was steering” haha). As more couples join them on the dance floor, Harry takes the opportunity to leave, although Parvati was having a good time. They go over to where Ron and Padma are sitting at a table to see how they are going. Not well. Ron is not paying attention to Padma at all and she is clearly irritated. Parvati wanted to keep dancing, so when a boy from Beauxbatons asks her to dance, she ditches Harry and goes off with the other boy.
While Harry is watching Cho and Cedric, Hermione turns up. Ron is very angry with her, although Hermione doesn’t understand why. Ron claims that Krum is only after Hermione to find out information about Harry and that she is “fraternizing with the enemy.” Hermione is understandably angered by this, since Ron was the one who was such a Krum fanboy when school started, and besides, Krum hasn’t asked any questions about Harry at all. He had been hanging around the library trying to talk to Hermione the whole time.
Hermione also says that she would never even think of helping Krum with the egg riddle since she definitely wants Harry to win. Harry admits that he really doesn’t have a problem with Hermione coming to the ball with Krum, but Ron is too far gone at this point. After Hermione storms off, Padma asks Ron if he will ever dance with her (he won’t) and goes off to join her sister and the boys of Beauxbatons.
“Vare is Herm-own-ninny?” said a voice.
Krum had just arrived at their table clutching two butterbeers.
“No idea,” said Run mulishly, looking up at him. “Lost her, have you?”
Ron, you would have been thrilled at the idea of Krum coming up to talk to you a few months ago. Now you’re just being a jerk. To make matters worse, Percy shows up and praises Ron for making friends with Krum, since this event is all about “international magical cooperation.” So not the right thing to say right now, Percy. After watching Mr. Bagman get interrupted by the twins, and Percy apologizing for their behavior, Harry and Ron decide to leave the hall to get some air, heading out into the garden.
While in the garden, they overhear a very interesting conversation between Karkaroff and Snape. Karkaroff is very worried about something happening, about something becoming “clearer and clearer,” but Snape just tells him to run if he’s scared. Snape will stay at Hogwarts, where at the moment, he is scaring couples out of their hiding places in the bushes. Once Snape sees them, he tells them to move along.
Which they do, but then they come across Hagrid with Madame Maxime. It seems like a, uh, very private moment. Hagrid asks her a weird question.
“I jus’ knew . . . knew you were like me . . . Was it yer mother or yer father?”
“I — I don’t know what you mean, ‘Agrid . . .”
Hagrid goes on to say that he gets “it” from his mother’s side, but that she left him and his father early. Madame Maxime doesn’t want to discuss this, but Hagrid has to know, because he’s never met another half-giant. Maxime takes great offense to this, saying that she is definitely NOT a half-giant, and storms off. As Ron and Harry head back inside, Ron explains to Harry that this is really bad. They knew Hagrid was big, but the fact that he has giant blood could be used against him. Giants are known to be fierce and vicious and bloodthirsty. Hagrid isn’t any of those things, of course, but that might not matter to certain people if they found out.
Back in the entrance hall, Cedric stops Harry and asks for a word. He gives Harry a clue about the golden egg, that he should take a bath, “mull things over in hot water.” He even gives him the password to the prefect’s bathroom so he can have privacy to do so. Harry wonders at this really weird advice and can’t help but wonder if this is a way to make him look like an idiot in front of Cho. Once he gets back up to the common room, though, Harry has something else to worry about: Ron and Hermione.
“Well, if you don’t like it, you know what the solution is, don’t you?” yelled Hermione; her hair was coming down out of its elegant bun now, and her face was screwed up in anger.
“Oh yeah?” Ron yelled back. “What’s that?”
“Next time there’s a ball, ask me before someone else does, and not as a last resort!”
Ron . . . doesn’t really have much to say to that. And that’s probably for the best. Harry doesn’t want to mess up his newly re-formed friendship with Ron, but he is pretty sure that Hermione is in the right here.
See you next time for Chapter 24!