The Unexpected Task

chapter twenty-two of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

McGonagall informs the Gryffindors that the Yule Ball will be held on Christmas, and then informs Harry that he needs to have a partner as he’s to open the dancing. After much frustration on his and Ron’s parts, he asks Cho Chang but is turned down; finally, after a last-ditch effort, Parvati agrees to go with him, and to ask her sister Padma about going with Ron.

Act Their Age, by Loleia

Harry and Ron, who had been having a sword fight with a couple of Fred and George’s fake wands at the back of the class, looked up, Ron holding a tin parrot and Harry, a rubber haddock.

(by Loleia)


Professor Minerva McGonagall, by Michael Greenholt

“The Yule Ball is of course a chance for us all to – er – let our hair down,” she said, in a disapproving voice.


Cho, by lberghol

He couldn’t ask her. He couldn’t. But he had to. Cho stood there looking puzzled, watching him.


The Unexpected Task, by Marta T

“Because – oh shut up laughing, you two – because they’ve both just been turned down by girls they asked to the ball!” said Ginny.

(by Marta T)


Oh, Well Spotted Ron, by Cambryn

[Hermione’s] eyes flashed dangerously. “Just because it’s taken you three years to notice, Ron, doesn’t mean no one else has spotted I’m a girl!”

(by Cambryn)


about the chapter


Something You May Not Have Noticed

I love McGonagall’s reaction as she tells her fourth-years about the Yule Ball. She tells off Harry and Ron for not “acting their age,” then ignores Parvati and Lavender’s furious giggles. And she’s described as talking “disapprovingly,” “coldly,” and “irritably.” Is this just McGonagall’s strictness carrying over into a disapproval of festivities? Harry seems to think so, but I don’t – we’ve seen her tipsy at the holidays before, and she’ll soon be dancing at the Yule Ball herself. It seems more likely to me she has a reason to sympathize with the girls in the class for having to deal with the clueless boys – perhaps even stemming from her own experience while at Hogwarts.

Life at Hogwarts

Professor Binns’s lecture on goblin rebellions made me wonder: do they ever talk about anything else in History of Magic? My curiosity got the better of me on this one, and I looked through the class topics over Harry’s five years – turns out they often do talk about other topics, but the entirety of the fourth-year curriculum, or at least of the pieces we see, is goblin wars. Can you imagine learning about goblin wars for an entire year?

The Boy Who Lived

During the first book I pulled out the quote, “And then he did something that was both very brave and very stupid,” as one that sort of quintessentially defines Harry. I haven’t really come across another quote that I felt captured his personality since then, but in this chapter I was struck much the same way. I think Hagrid hits the nail on the head when he tells him: “”Well, yeh might’ve bent a few rules, Harry, bu’ yeh’re all righ’ really, aren’ you?”

The Final Word

“Harry is changing as he’s getting older. He and his friends are 14 now and their hormones are kicking in, so it’s really fun to write about. Everyone’s in love with the wrong person, it’s brilliant.”–J.K. Rowling, January 1999

26 Responses to “The Unexpected Task”

  1. Love the “Life at Hogwarts,” it explains a lot of why Ron and Harry just don’t care. It’s one thing to learn the history and have all sorts of different events and dates to remember, it’s quite another to have them be about the same group of people and it always being a war. I’d’ve started to make up random names, like Ron, and gone out and had some fun.

  2. Binns seems to me to be the type of teacher who fixates on a favourite subject and then has it pop up every time he can, so I wouldn’t be suprised to find out that gobling wars are a research interest of Binns’.

  3. I don’t know… When I was 13, we discussed the second World War for almost an entire year (okay, the first few weeks we learned about the First World War (in which my country was neutral, so not much tot tell there)) Maybe Goblin Wars were just really long…
    I loved this chapter… I remember that when I read it for the first time, I was 14 myself, and I was giggling the whole time. It’s so recognizable. Oh, and I also love the way Mcgonnagal is portrayed from Harry’s perspective at this chapter…

  4. Interesting bit of information on McGonagall. I wonder who has spurned her in the past…

  5. As a history buff, I wish we knew more about the Goblin Wars. It’s obvious from book 7 that there is a lot of bad blood between goblins and wizards, and I wonder if Harry’s interaction with Griphook would have gone better had he paid attention in History of Magic. Societies stem from their past, and to know why a society is the way it is, it helps to know how it got that way. The determination to keep the magical world a secret from Muggles (from 1692) is clearly a major factor in the 1990s of Harry Potter, but surely there are others?

  6. Mart T’s picture of the trio+Ginny is so perfect, it gets their facial expression spot-on! And what are the other subjects in History of Magic? I rememeber there being something about giant wars in, I think, OotP, and something about self-stirring cauldrons in the earlier books. I wonder if they ever study something relevant like Grindelwald? Imagine how much easier that would’ve made things!

  7. Remember how Hannah Abbott and Professor Sprout mention Eloise Midgen cursed her nose off while trying to cure her acne. Maybe this is why Ron mentions it’s off center!

  8. Although I love the books even more, I think this part is excellent in the movie, when McGonagall teaches them how to dance… I always laugh, it’s great!

  9. Ha ha, Roonit, I didn’t notice that one. You might be right.

  10. I hadn’t thought about that regarding McGonagall. I’m not sure though, as a teacher myself, I’m more likely to ignore giggling then a sword fight (giggling lasts for a few seconds, how long were they sword fighting for)? Love the picture though!

  11. My understanding is that Binns could make ANYTHING boring, so in theory the goblin wars could have been really exciting in another teacher’s class.

  12. I’ve read this book so many times, but this last time I just noticed how upset Ginny is about going to the ball with Neville. I always thought it was because she didn’t really want to go with Neville, but I think it’s more because she isn’t going with Harry. When she finds out that Harry doesn’t have a date and Ron says Ginny should go with Harry, she realizes that if she had just waited a few hours, she would be going to the ball with Harry. This was probably obvious, but I never noticed.

  13. Lizzie, I think this is to show Ginny in a Gryffindor moment. It’s clear that she’s very fond of Neville; she did not “use” him as her ticket to the ball, but gladly accepted him as a friend. But if only she hadn’t been around when Neville was looking for someone to ask (what do you bet that Hermione tipped him off?), Ginny could have gone to the ball with Harry.

    Even at that moment, Ginny could have kept quiet, agreed to go with Harry, and broken it off with Neville later. I think this was a real temptation for her – and poor Neville would never have made trouble over it! But Ginny did the honourable thing, and honestly explained why she couldn’t go with Harry. And then she clearly saw that Harry didn’t even care. He was annoyed at still not having anyone, but going with Ginny wouldn’t have meant anything more to him than going with Parvati. No wonder Ginny arrived at the ball open-minded about Michael Corner!

    And Harry did notice that Ginny was miserable about it all, and he didn’t care. He was already busy planning his last, desperate measure. I must say, “Lavender, will you go with Ron?” really does take the prize for the least-romantic-ever way to ask a girl to the ball! Harry didn’t even wait around to see if Ron would open his mouth on his own behalf!

  14. I never understood why asking one of the few girls in the school he’s that familiar with would be desperate. Especially how she is apparently one of the prettiest girls there accordig to Seamus or dean in one of the next few chapters.
    Also why did Harry ask Parvarti first and not lavender?

  15. Ari, if Harry wasn’t making a random choice, then I presume he likes Parvati better. She’s a little more fiery in temperament, and therefore perhaps a little less of a giggler.

    Yes, it ought not to be “desperate” to ask a classmate whom he knows quite well. If Harry thinks of it that way, this must be because Parvati & Lavender epitomise everything that he most dreads about “taking a girl to the ball”. They are neither glamorous (like Cho) nor comfortable (like Hermione). Perhaps Harry expects to find them boring?

  16. On the Goblin Wars, from what we learn later, namely in DH from Bill, Ron, Hermione (who payed attention to these classes) and from Harry’s own interaction with Griphook, Goblins and Wizards do not get along, at all, really.

    Of the humanoid species, they are the only ones who try to be separate *and* equal. Veela sound like they live roughly as humans, at least marrying them. House Elves have been subjugated. Giants stick to their mountains (now). Centaurs stick to their forests. Goblins try to live in the same space and compete for the same resources as Wizards, but remain a separate entity.

    As is mentioned in DH, Goblins to not hold the same thoughts or beliefs as the humans. Combine this with close proximity, and you are going to have regular arguments blooming into full out war on a routine basis. As such, it’s quite possible that the reason it takes a full year to teach about the Goblin Wars is because Wizards have been at war with the Goblins off and on for most of their history.

    As an American, I equate this in to terms of American History classes, which, putting aside the day to day things like elections and expansion, boil down to basically the following: before the Civil War, America fought Britain. Afterwards, America fought Germany. Actually, owing to the Brits using Hessian mercenaries, and the king being a Hapsburg, aside from the Civil War and conflicts in Asia, America has been fighting Germans, in one form or another, for most of its history.

    Also, to the question of why doesn’t Binns teach something relevant, like Grindlewald, it comes down to the book that Binns teaches from, “A History of Magic” by Bathilda Bagshot. As Hermione states in DH, Bagshot doesn’t write about anything newer than a century or so.

  17. @Lesharo: Thanks for reminding us about the book and author. I just tend to remember that anytime I was in a general history course, we’d seem to “run out of time” and I don’t think I was taught anything in depth past WWII, even if we were supposed to get to contemporary topics.

  18. I always loved the title of this chapter! I remember when I first read this book, I must have been even younger than Harry was at the time and I was eager to read about a task in the tournament the champions didn’t know about. It never occurred to me it would be something like this!! :)

  19. I’m probably reaching with this, but here goes…
    So, when McGonagall says the line about ‘letting their hair down’, it’s very clear why Parvati and Lavender are laughing but the first time they giggle it’s in response to the suggestion of asking a younger student to the ball and they look back at Harry. From what we know about them, they’re generally the girls that giggle but we also know that they spend a whole lot of time with Trelawney who, when you look at most things she predicts, get’s most of her predictions right. So what could she have seen that would make them look back at Harry?
    Like I said, probably reaching, but it’s just something that I thought of.

  20. I’ve started wondering if the only reason that its fourth year students and above being able to attend the ball is because of Harry. If you think about it, only sixth and seventh years who were 17 or above were allowed to compete, so if Harry had never been entered into the contest, I think it would have been likely that only the sixth and seventh years would have been allowed to attend. However, they really can’t make an exception for one student, so they allowed fourth year and above to attend.

  21. I completely agree with JK Rowling. By this point, Hermione’s in love with Ron, who remains clueless about his reciprocated feelings (until, it seems, Viktor Krum comes along and makes him jealous), Harry’s nursing a growing crush on the unreachable Cho Chang, and Ginny is, as always, head over heels in love with Harry. Brilliant.

  22. To Lesharo: Good point, but I think I should correct you on one minor detail. George III was of German descent, all right, but he was a Hanoverian, not a Hapsburg.

  23. When re-reading this chapter, I’ll have to admit I did some giggling myself. It’s hilarious! There are so many lines in this chapter that are simply brilliant – like the one saying “Snape, of course, would no sooner let them play games in class than adopt Harry.”
    It’s also a fun re-reading as all the members of the future girlfriends/boyfriends are here, but, like the JKR quote says – they’re all off with the wrong person. I think this chapter just captures the teenage aspect we all know so well ;)

  24. If you remember, in the school letter Harry received, it said dress robes, so I am under the impression it wasn’t just because Harry was a champion. It also is unknown if all the years were asked to get dress robes.

  25. The whole chapter is pretty funny. I remember feeling bad for Hermione and Neville though. Neville, because he’s really sweet and doesn’t deserve some of the crap he gets and Hermione cuz… well she puts it best Ron has ” the emotional range of a teaspoon.”

    “Hermione, you’re a girl!” rotfl. I love the books but I have to say, in the movies, this scene is EPIC. It’s so funny because you see Harry trying to stop him in the background and Ron just keeps digging that hole deeper. And then Snape comes in to give a vicious smack-down. lol.

  26. Two “off-camera” moments I would like to see is the Cedric-Fleur conversation that Ron walked in on and the Cedric-Cho conversation where he asked he to the ball, specifically which of those two conversations happened first.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: