Harry shares everything with Ron, Hermione, and Sirius except for what he learned about Neville. Ron is incredulous that Dumbledore trusts Snape. Hermione says that this is what Rita Skeeter and Winky were talking about in reference to Bagman. Ron wonders if Fudge's suspicion of Madame Maxime has any truth, given her parentage, but Hermione insists that it makes sense that Maxime would deny having a giant parent. They all head to bed and as Harry puts on pajamas, he thinks that Neville deserves sympathy about his parents more than Harry does. Harry flashes on the fear in Barty Crouch's face and thinks that Voldemort is responsible for tearing these families apart.
Harry's willingness to follow through and honor Dumbledore's request to keep the truth about Neville's parents secret shows that he's beginning to mature and truly come of age emotionally. Further, his interpretation of the way in which Voldemort tears families apart and creates a world in which empathy and kindness cannot function properly shows that Harry is beginning to see that by learning to be empathetic, he'll be able to go on to fight Voldemort.
Rather than study for exams, Hermione and Ron dedicate most of their time to helping Harry prepare for the third task. Ron excitedly says that the hexes they're practicing will prepare them to be Aurors. McGonagall gives the trio permission to use her classroom for practice and one afternoon, Ron looks out the window and notices Malfoy standing under a tree, seemingly speaking into his hand. Sirius sends letters daily and reminds Harry that he shouldn't worry about what's going on outside of Hogwarts.
The excitement that Ron expresses about being an Auror someday shows that at least when it's fun and exciting, he's looking forward to adult life in the Wizarding world. This represents a major step for Ron, especially since deciding he wants to be an Auror shows that he understands there's a dark side of the Wizarding world that requires policing.
On the morning of the third task, Hermione gets her Daily Prophet and spits pumpkin juice on it in surprise. Ron takes it, insults Rita Skeeter, and tries to keep Harry from reading the article. Malfoy shouts and asks if Harry's head is okay, and Ron reluctantly gives Harry the paper. Skeeter's article suggests that Harry is "unstable and possibly dangerous" and mentions Harry's scar pain during Divination. It includes an interview with Malfoy revealing that Harry can speak Parseltongue (can talk to snakes). It also says that Harry is friends with "vicious creatures" like werewolves and giants, thereby suggesting Harry is violent and possibly evil. Ron asks how Skeeter found out about Divination and Hermione suddenly gets an odd look on her face. She runs her fingers through her hair and races to the library.
This article is Rita Skeeter's masterpiece, as it draws together everything she's somehow learned about Harry that can be construed as bad and puts it together in a way that guarantees that for anyone who reads and believes her work, Harry isn't credible. In doing so, Skeeter makes sure that the news media is in control and that Harry isn't in control of telling his story, given that nobody will listen. When Hermione runs to the library, it shows that she still believes it's capable of helping her figure this sort of thing out, provided she critically evaluates what she reads.
McGonagall approaches Harry and says that he needs to report to the chamber off of the Great Hall, as champions' families are invited to watch the third task. Harry blankly wonders if the Dursleys are actually there as he watches Fleur, Krum, and Cedric enter the room off the hall. Cedric sticks his head out and calls for Harry. Perplexed, Harry enters the room, where Mrs. Weasley and Bill greet him warmly. Mr. Diggory tells Harry that he must not feel as confident now that he and Cedric are tied. Cedric tells Harry that his dad has been upset since Rita Skeeter's first article. Harry spends the day walking around the school with Mrs. Weasley and Bill and learns that Percy isn't doing well, as people suspect that Mr. Crouch isn't writing the instructions he's sending. Fudge will be the fifth judge tonight.
Harry's unwillingness to suspect that the Weasleys might act as his family shows that, though he's known the family for four years now, he still doesn't view them as integral members of his community--they're still just his best friend's parents. Mr. Diggory's comments to Harry show that he takes Rita Skeeter's reporting seriously and because of this, he joins a number of other witches and wizards who don't critically evaluate their media. He does this, however, in an attempt to support Cedric, which again blurs the lines between good and bad.
At lunch, Ron and the other Weasleys are shocked to see Mrs. Weasley and Bill. Mrs. Weasley greets Hermione stiffly and Harry incredulously tells Mrs. Weasley that Hermione isn't his girlfriend. Mrs. Weasley also sighs that it's nice to not have to cook. After the evening feast, Dumbledore excuses the champions to follow Bagman to the field. The hedges are now 20 feet high. As the stands fill, Hagrid, Moody, McGonagall, and Flitwick appear. They'll be there to rescue anyone who sends up red sparks from the maze.
It's important to note that Hermione expresses little sympathy for Mrs. Weasley when she performs the same domestic labor as a house-elf, also without pay. This suggests that Hermione is more focused on the fact that the house-elves aren't human than on the greater societal issues regarding domestic work, who performs it, and how they're compensated or not.
Bagman reminds the crowd where everyone stands on points--Harry and Cedric are tied for first, followed by Krum and then Fleur. Bagman releases Harry and Cedric into the maze and the two part ways when they reach the first fork. Harry listens as the other two champions enter the maze and he uses a charm to make his wand point north. He doesn't find anything in his way until Cedric appears, having just shaken off a Blast-Ended Skrewt. Harry hurries in the other direction until he finds a dementor. The dementor trips when Harry sends his Patronus at it, and he realizes it's a boggart.
The creatures that Harry meets help to build his confidence and show him that he's capable of succeeding in an environment designed with fully-grown and better-trained wizards in mind. This helps Harry feel mature and on top of things and suggests that he's getting to the end of his journey towards coming of age.
After a few more minutes, Harry comes across a floating golden mist. He shoots a curse through it and before he can decide whether to step through or not, he hears Fleur scream. Harry starts to run but stops when he realizes the world is upside down. When he takes a step, the world rights again. Harry looks for signs of Fleur and wonders if she's okay while also thinking that she's possibly no longer in the running.
When the positive and negative thoughts about Fleur exist side by side in Harry's mind, it shows that he's just as capable of thinking selfishly as anyone else. Again, it's up to him to choose which thoughts will win out and, in doing so, choose if he wants to be a good or a bad person.
Ten minutes later, Harry meets a Blast-Ended Skrewt. It's ten feet long and Harry's curses bounce off of it. He manages to hit its underside, which has no armor, and stops the skrewt. Harry races away and a few minutes later, he hears Cedric talking to Krum and Krum saying, "Crucio!" Cedric screams. Harry blasts through the hedge and Stupefies Krum. Harry and Cedric nervously discuss how they thought Krum was an okay person and they wonder if Krum got Fleur too. Cedric sends sparks up over Krum so someone will come get him and then he and Harry part ways.
Though the reader and Harry learn later that Krum was acting under the Imperius curse when he did this to Cedric, this apparent turn towards the Dark side shows Harry that he should think twice about whom he trusts. However, it's also worth noting that Barty Crouch orchestrates this and, being on Voldemort's side, doesn't want Harry to trust anyone.
As Harry moves through the maze, he wonders if Krum wanted to win badly enough to do something that would earn him a life sentence in Azkaban. After a few minutes, Harry comes across a sphinx. She tells Harry that if he can answer her riddle, he can pass. If he's wrong she'll attack, but he can walk away without answering if he wants. She gives him the riddle and Harry is able to solve it. Harry gets to another fork and sees the cup. However, Cedric is ahead and running for it.
Harry's curiosity regarding Krum's motive suggests importantly that though Harry would like to win, it's not at the top of his priorities right now; he'd rather make it through alive and, even more importantly, play this game fairly.
Harry sees a giant spider come over the hedge at Cedric and yells to him. Cedric trips and Harry tries to curse the spider. The spider turns on Harry and lifts him into the air. Harry's leg connects painfully with a pincer, he falls to the ground, and he and Cedric curse the spider at the same time. It falls over and Cedric checks to make sure Harry is okay. Harry's leg is bleeding and won't support his weight, so he tells Cedric to take the cup. Cedric looks back and forth between Harry and the cup but refuses to win. They argue until finally Harry suggests they take it together. Cedric helps Harry to the cup. As they grab it, Harry feels a lurch in his belly and he and Cedric fly away.
By choosing to make the end of the Tournament a win for Hogwarts, not a win for an individual, Harry and Cedric show that they've taken the purpose of the Tournament to heart and, in choosing to put aside their differences for the greater good, have also learned to be empathetic and kind to other people.