Chapter 22 – The Unexpected Task
- Like so many fanfiction writers, it would appear Rowling liked the idea of Hogwarts hosting a dance.
- It’s here that we really see our protagonists as true teenagers, experiencing romantic feelings and being very awkward about it, plus Ron’s attitude about him and Harry not going with “a pair of trolls” that offends Hermione – and it’s brilliant.
- Particularly brilliant is this line: ‘”Harry – we’ve just got to grit our teeth and do it,” said Ron on Friday morning, in a tone that suggested they were planning the storming of an impregnable fortress.’
- It’s funny, really: Harry’s so keen on asking Cho to the Yule Ball, yet neither he nor the audience really knows a lot about her. It’s only because Harry’s the hero and I want him to be happy that I would like him to succeed in this task and feel bad when he doesn’t.
- That’s a sad moment for Ginny: she could have gone to the Ball with Harry if only Neville had been late in asking her. (I became a Harry/Ginny shipper soon after I discovered fanfiction, somewhere between Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix, but Half Blood Prince feels the best place to talk about that.)
Chapter 23 – The Yule Ball
- If their interactions in Prisoner of Azkaban didn’t raise it as a possibility, it’s here that we get the first proper hints of an eventual romance between Ron and Hermione, given Ron’s high level of interest in her unknown Yule Ball date, and his clear jealousy at the Ball itself. I never had a problem with it: Harry and Hermione’s relationship always seemed fine as platonic – there aren’t enough close but platonic boy-girl friendships in fiction.
- The Yule Ball, like the Quidditch World Cup, is really quite a fun event to witness even if it’s not essential.
- I confess that I was one of those who thought Hermione was pronounced ‘Hermy-own’ until the films came out. Rowling has said that she specifically put Hermione’s correct pronunciation lesson into the book for the sake of the confused readers – well done to her for making it seem so natural.
- I initially wondered why Snape felt the need to forcibly interrupt the happy couples in the garden, other than the fact that he’s a prick – but then I thought, the romance reminds him of what he wanted to have with Lily and never could!
- How exactly did a male human and a twenty-foot-tall female giant manage to conceive Hagrid? I don’t really want to know, yet I cannot avoid asking.
- Ron continues his role – neglected in the films – of being an important window into wizarding culture as he explains the traditional view on giants, thus helping us to understand the prejudice that becomes evident later on. And this is coming from Ron, who really likes Hagrid.
- “Big bones…the only thing that’s got bigger bones than her is a dinosaur.” Do wizards actually know about dinosaurs?
Chapter 24 – Rita Skeeter’s Scoop
- There’s some interesting character moments in this chapter. Harry is rude to the Care of Magical Creatures substitute when she won’t tell him where Hagrid is, and lies to Hermione about solving his egg. Hermione is less blinded by loyalty to Hagrid than Harry or Ron, and would be able to admit that he’s lacking as a teacher if it weren’t for the pressure from them; but after meeting Rita Skeeter face to face, she quickly becomes motivated to see justice done.
- Dumbledore is particularly good in the scene in Hagrid’s cabin, both getting his message across calmly but firmly (I like that many parents actually wrote to Dumbledore telling him not to sack Hagrid) and displaying his usual polite and humourous charm (“I have gone temporarily deaf and haven’t any idea what you said, Harry.”) Meanwhile, it does lend another level to Harry and Hagrid’s already unconventional friendship that Hagrid sees himself in Harry to some degree.
Chapter 25 – The Egg and the Eye
- We never do see anything about the bathrooms used by non-Prefects, do we? I really like the indulgent fantasy bath in this chapter, though.
- And we’re still learning new things about the environment that Harry’s now spent years in, with the revelation that merpeople live in the lake.
- Well, of course Harry goes to check out Crouch’s dot on the map. He can never turn his back on a good mystery.
- The second half of this chapter features some interesting character exposition, but perhaps its main purpose is to temporarily rid Harry of the Marauder’s Map so he doesn’t keep seeing Crouch on it.
Chapter 26 – The Second Task
- With all the effort that Harry, Ron and Hermione put into research, why don’t they find the Bubble Head Charm (used by Cedric and Fleur) or something similar? Bear in mind that students are seen using it in a foul-smelling corridor in the next book, but maybe that’s the clue – perhaps it’s typically used for other purposes and the trio aren’t quite pragmatic enough in this case.
- This task is really not as watchable as the first one: is everyone in the audience just staring at the lake for an hour? So much for the “stuff yeh’ve never seen before” that Hagrid promised. Given the detailed description of the underwater landscape, it’s much more interesting for the champions themselves.
- The chapter is also inventive in other ways, with the strange effect of Gillyweed on Harry’s body, and the resident merpeople who look very different to traditional, beautiful ones.