Harry Potter knew you could get used to anything. Hell, he'd joked about it to himself, a lot, as a child. He'd gotten used to darkness (to the point where he'd been blinded when mercilessly shoved outside to trim rosebushes), and he'd gotten used to the pinch of constant hunger. He'd gotten used to being quick, and quiet - knowing when to hide, and when to flee from Dudley and his merry band of bullies.
Harry turned down another path - how many of these were there? It was still creepy in here, still gloomy in the 'unchanging twilight' sort of sense - where even direct sun couldn't penetrate through the swampy malaise. Harry could feel his edge dulling, that frisson of fear fading into a different emotion - anxiety. Anxiety, Harry knew from goodly experience, wasn't much use at all. He much preferred to burn it off in the sky, flying until he had blisters, rather than confronting it. Nothing like submerging yourself in flight - the constant adjustments and concentration made sure he didn't have enough time to stew.
Harry started down another path, playing make-believe that he was a hunter on Africa's Zambeeze river. There were alligators under the water, and the great grass-eating monsters - hippopatamuses. Worse, Harry thought, if he wasn't careful, a lion might jump on his back.
There it was, the fear that he needed. All he had to do was picture a leopard tackling him to the ground, hot breath on his ear.
Wait, what was that? Harry thought, looking behind a large mangrove tree beside the path. Water, Harry thought eagerly, nearly tripping over himself in the eagerness to get the moss and get the hell out of here. He remembered, suddenly, Hermione reading about ingredient gathering - this had been third year, and Ron (as usual) had thought Hermione daft for reading extra. Hermione had said that clear water was essential for harvesting most submarine ingredients. Harry remembered how the water had turned mud-brown when he'd stepped in the already-mud-clouded puddles.
So he stepped especially carefully, finding a place where he could see the preciously-clear water. Yes, on the side of the bank, a good foot under the water, the Goblin's Gold moss gleamed.
Harry smiled broadly.
Victory in sight.
He bent at the waist, sticking his whole arm up to the elbow into the water, uncaring of how wet his sleeve would get.
Harry felt something smack into his bottom - the stomach-lurching sensation of falling forward, the image of tumbling into the water.
Then, Harry flew. backwards, the water receding from his hands. Out of control, He let out a terrified cry.
Clamp! Harry felt squeezed, on his knees and on his armpits. He had landed in something. Still feet off the ground.
Harry looked down, to see a squat, amphiboid body with weak arms and big hands.
From behind him - under him, he felt the belly gurgle.
[a/n: Harry didn't read the Jungle Book (Teacher-read at school), and wasn't that good at geography. Because I'm me, I looked up the correct spelling anyway.
Submarine isn't the right word. Anyone got it?
Google for a picture of the Goblin's Gold moss. It's beautiful.
Please leave a review - this is one of those chapters that I've been worried about the reaction to!]