The next morning, Ron and Hermione are friendly but strangely formal with each other. Ron and Harry share what they heard about Hagrid's parentage, but Hermione isn't shocked. She suggests that the giants can't be too horrible and wonders if it's the same kind of bigotry that people show to werewolves.
When Hermione is able to apply this big-picture thinking to giants, it shows that she has the capacity to think of non-human creatures with compassion, though it's unclear if she'd be willing to listen to giants better than she listens to house-elves.
With Christmas over, Harry thinks that the second task looks very close. He starts taking the egg out daily to listen, but nothing happens. Though he keeps Cedric's clue in mind, Harry desperately wants to figure it out for himself--especially when he sees Cedric holding Cho's hand in the hallways.
The jealousy that Harry feels and the choices that Harry makes because of his jealousy remind the reader that he's still young and figuring out how to exist in an adult world with emotions that he doesn't enjoy.
When Harry, Ron, and Hermione get to Hagrid's for Care of Magical Creatures, they find a short witch who curtly introduces herself as Professor Grubbly-Plank, the temporary teacher. She refuses to tell them where Hagrid is and leads the class to a unicorn tied at the edge of the forest. She invites the girls to step forward and touch it and while the boys stand back, Malfoy smirks and hands Harry a newspaper clipping. It's an article written by Rita Skeeter outing Hagrid as being half-giant and including interviews with Malfoy saying that Hagrid "maims" students during lessons with dangerous animals.
For all the Slytherins' faults, it's telling that they're the ones who seem to have subscriptions to the paper--this means that they're the first to get information and, because Harry, Ron, and Hermione don't have their own subscriptions, it means that they get to censor the things that the trio read. Doing this allows the Slytherins to make it so Harry only reads the articles that aren't nice to him.
Ron is dumbfounded that Rita Skeeter found out about Hagrid's parentage, while Harry hisses at Malfoy that most of the creatures haven't been that dangerous. After the lesson, Harry shoves the article at Hermione, who's also curious how Skeeter uncovered this information. She wonders if she heard Hagrid during the ball too, and Harry muses that she might have an Invisibility Cloak. After dinner, the trio goes down to Hagrid's cabin and bangs on the door, but Hagrid doesn't answer. Hagrid doesn't show himself for the next week.
Hagrid's choice to barricade himself in his cabin shows the consequences of being mean and unfeeling like Skeeter was in writing the article--Hagrid fears that nobody will want to be friends with him, knowing the truth. This fear also speaks to the anxiety that wizards have about non-human beings, given that everyone who knows Hagrid knows he's harmless and extremely kind.
Halfway through January, Harry lies to Hermione that he's figured out the egg so she doesn't scold him when he decides to go on the Hogsmeade trip. On their way to the village with Ron, they see Krum diving off the Durmstrang ship into the lake. When Ron looks hopeful that the giant squid might eat Krum, Hermione frowns and says he's actually really nice. Hogsmeade is uneventful and there are no signs of Hagrid. The trio does see Bagman sitting with three goblins who all look upset. They think it's strange that Bagman is in Hogsmeade when there's no reason to be there.
Showing Bagman with these unhappy goblins opens up the possibility that there are a number of magical creatures that, unlike house-elves, are actually unhappy with the way that wizards treat them. The fact that the goblins are with Bagman also suggests that, if he's the reason for their unhappiness, that he's not a good or nice person, as Winky suggested.
When he spots Harry, Bagman pulls him aside and, seeing Harry looking at the goblins, says that the creatures are a nightmare and he can't understand them. They want Mr. Crouch, who's stopped coming to work and says he's ill. Bagman asks Harry to keep this a secret, as Rita Skeeter is likely to insist that Mr. Crouch is missing like Bertha Jorkins. Bagman changes the subject and asks Harry how he's doing with the egg and again offers to help. When Harry refuses, Bagman looks disappointed and turns down Fred and George's offer to buy him a drink. The goblins follow Bagman out of the pub.
The way that Bagman speaks about the goblins confirms that wizards in general don't think highly of non-human creatures; as far as he's concerned, they're fundamentally unintelligible and impossible to relate to. This explains why these creatures are dealt with through a specific branch of the Ministry, as they're merely a problem to be dealt with rather than beings with understandable aims.
Harry and Ron are shocked that Bagman wants to help and Ron wonders jokingly if Percy poisoned Mr. Crouch so he'd be made head of the department. Rita Skeeter enters the Three Broomsticks with her photographer and the two mutter about why Bagman doesn't want to talk and what he's doing with goblins. Harry loudly asks her if she's trying to ruin other people's lives and asks why she wrote about Hagrid like she did. Skeeter invites Harry to tell his account of what Hagrid is like, which makes Hermione angrily stand and insult Skeeter. Skeeter coldly tells Hermione that she knows all sorts of unsavory things about Bagman and calls Hermione a "silly little girl."
The fact that seeing Bagman with unhappy goblins also intrigues Skeeter implies that there is something to be concerned about here. By standing up for Hagrid in public, Harry and Hermione are able to show the patrons of the Three Broomsticks (where Hagrid is a regular visitor) that someone is willing to stand up for him. Hopefully, this will encourage others to also stand up for Hagrid and fight for the truth: that Hagrid is good and kind.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione leave the pub and Hermione vows to get revenge. Ron cautions her to not get on Rita Skeeter's bad side, but Hermione angrily leads the boys to Hagrid's hut and bangs loudly on his door, shouting that Skeeter is awful and that Hagrid's being silly for ignoring them. She stops short when Dumbledore opens the door and pleasantly invites them in. Hagrid looks like he's been crying. Dumbledore conjures a tea tray and tells Hagrid that the trio still wants to be friends with him. After Harry insists that he doesn't care what Skeeter wrote, Dumbledore says that this is proof of what he's been saying all along: that parents will revolt if Hagrid loses his job. He reminds Hagrid that achieving universal popularity is impossible and says that he expects him back to work on Monday.
Because people can dislike each other without anyone being evil, Dumbledore's advice to Hagrid reminds him and the reader that people are multifaceted individuals who have bits of good inside them as well as bits of bad. Most importantly, it suggests that much of that good or bad is relative, not set in stone. This helps Harry to learn to humanize others and understand that, as he continues to move forward into a more adult world, things aren't going to get clearer in this sense.
Dumbledore leaves and Hermione comforts Hagrid as he cries. When he collects himself, he pulls out a photo of himself with his dad as a child. His dad sits on Hagrid's shoulder. Hagrid says that Dumbledore believes that people can rise above unfortunate beginnings. He looks at Harry and says that he'd love it if Harry won the Triwizard Tournament. Harry lies and says that he has the egg figured out. On the way back to the castle, he decides to take Cedric's advice.
Because Harry loves and respects Hagrid so much, the thought of not making Hagrid proud is enough to convince Harry to swallow his pride and listen to Cedric. This shows Harry using love to overcome some of his adolescent jealousy and self-importance, providing a roadmap for the future.