Chapter Twenty-one: The House-Elf Liberation Front
Harry sends a letter to Sirius describing the triumph over the dragon. He goes into the Gryffindor common room, where a great celebration ensues. At one point, Harry is persuaded to open his golden egg, but only a garbled shrieking comes from it. Everyone is merry, especially Fred and George, whose Canary Creams turn Neville temporarily into a giant yellow canary. Harry goes to sleep feeling grand.
Days later, while Harry is helping Hagrid tie up ten angry Skrewts, Rita Skeeter drops in and asks to interview Hagrid. She beams at Harry, who does his best to ignore her. Divination is fun again, now that Harry and Ron are friends again. After class, Hermione drags the boys down to the kitchens, where, amid a hundreds of house-elves offering food and tea, Dobby appears and greets Harry. He and Winky now work at Hogwarts, and although Dobby is delighted by his freedom and his ability to earn money for his work, Winky is not; she misses Mr. Crouch and feels disgraced. Dobby, now that he is free from the Malfoys, confides in Harry that the Malfoys are dark wizards; Winky weeps sloppily and refuses to speak ill of Mr. Crouch, although she does mention that Ludo Bagman is a bad wizard. As the students leave the kitchens, Dobby promises to visit Harry, and Hermione feels confident that the other house-elves will soon envy Dobbys freedom and demand better standards for themselves.
Chapter Twenty-two: The Unexpected Task
During Transformation class, Professor McGonagall announces that the Yule Ball is fast approaching, and that the Champions and their dates will need to open the floor for dancing. This means that Harry must find a date. He would rather face a Hungarian Horntail. Several girls ask Harry, but he declines each one. He wants to go with Cho, but as she is always surrounded by giggling girls, he postpones asking her.
During class, Harry finds out that Hagrids interview with Rita Skeeter consists mostly of her asking him questions about Harry. Most classes at this point have relaxed quite a bit, as the teachers move into holiday spirit. Only Hermione is still intent on working hard, and she encourages Harry to spend some time figuring out his egg clue. He says lazily that he has loads of time. Meanwhile, everyone around them is getting dates; Ron comments that if he and Harry wait much longer, theyll wind up going with a pair of trolls. Hermione is offended and leaves the common room.
The castle is decorated for Christmas, with singing suits of armor, icicles hanging from the staircase, and twelve trees in the Great Hall; everything is ready for the Yule Ball except for Harry and Ron. Finally Harry asks Cho, who answers very apologetically that she just agreed to go with Cedric. Meanwhile, Ron has asked Fleur, who simply ignores his question. Defeated, the boys sit in the Gryffindor common room racking their brains for dates; Hermione enters the room, and Ron spouts out, “you are a girl you can come with one of us!” Hermione snaps that she already has a partner, and that other people noticed that she was a girl significantly before Ron did. She does not tell them who her date is, nor will Ginny Weasley, who is also in the common room and has agreed to go with Neville. Finally, Parvati Patil, a pretty but annoying Gryffindor girl enters the common room; she agrees to go as Harrys date, and to set her twin sister up as Rons.
In contrast to the other times when Harry achieves notoriety, in these chapters, he enjoys his fame. The celebration in Gryffindor common room represents they idyllic appeal of that British boarding school novels offer: a group of unsupervised children staying up late at night, eating sweets, and delighting in some recent event that has provided them with a group triumph. Everybody is happy, mischievous, and victorious.
Hermione plows on with her fight against elf-enslavement. She has found a way to get into the kitchens, and so she, Ron, and Harry discover a new frontier within the vast expanses of the Hogwarts castle, as they encounter hundreds of house- elves, happily doing housework. This event shows that it is impossible to learn everything about anything, as Dumbledore remarks. No matter how thoroughly Harry investigates Hogwarts, there is still one more painting guarding one more room, or one more wizard secret to be discovered. Furthermore, this venture into the kitchen brings Harry back into contact with Dobby, and it gives him more insight into Winkys relationship with Mr. Crouch. She clearly is more bound to him than anyone would expect, Mr. Crouch being the cold and rather unlovable man that he is. Hermione, as the champion of this liberation cause, is not yet concerned that the objects of her tirade do not seem to want to be liberated.
The unexpected task of finding dates for the Yule Ball brings many of the sexual tension issues to fruition. Harry shows his basic boyish awkwardness by cluelessly and somewhat coldly rebuffing several girls who ask him to the dance. He makes himself vulnerable by asking Cho, “Wanngoballwime?” and finding that she has already agreed to go with Cedric. Until this point, Harry has not felt rivalry with Cedric, but he grows sullen and resentful toward his opponent. Ron, meanwhile, after making a fool of himself by asking Fleur, is desperate for an attractive-looking date, and he makes more of a fool of himself by noticing suddenly that Hermione is a girl, and asking her as a last resort. Ron has had quite a lot of passionate, heated spats with Hermione over the course of this book and others, but here the spats have more to do with romance-for example, Ron accuses Hermione of liking Cedric just because he is handsome, and Hermione is annoyed with Ron for fawning over Fleur. From here until the end of the Yule Ball, their tension blossoms fully, making it clear to both of them what is going on, even though neither will or want to admit their attraction to the other.
Chapter Twenty-one: The House-Elf Liberation Front