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 Winky's 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.