On pacing: it's striking me how oddly stretched-out the tasks in the Triwizard Tournament are. You select the champions, then a month later you get the first task, then three months later the second task; then three months after that, the third task. No sporting event in the world takes this long--even the Olympics are over in two weeks. Instead, they're all in this for a full school year, and meanwhile, the delegations of kids from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang are studying...where? In their ship/caravan? Or are they in Hogwarts classes? One way or another I guess this is a year abroad for them.
As someone who wrestles with plot issues on a daily basis, I clearly recognize this as a method for drawing out the action over the course of a school year in order to end with the Voldemort showdown conveniently right before summer break. But on the surface, it makes me think, "Wow, nice job, wizarding world. You managed to invent a sport that's even slower-paced than cricket or golf."
Notes on the Yule Ball:
PARVATI: Padma, did you hear? Ron and Harry are writing a book on how to be the LAMEST DATES EVER.
Also, Hermione's gorgeous new look makes it so even Draco can't come up with a bad thing to say about her. Yeah, RIGHT. When you look your absolute best is EXACTLY when your arch-bully says the meanest things about you. Deep breath--okay--back now from middle school; it's all right.