Tom Riddle was dreaming.
He watched his life move past him as one might watch a slowly moving river on a lazy afternoon. It reflected the sky and light at every turn, at times almost blinding, but he watched it nonetheless. Moments here and there caught his eye but only for a fraction of a thought before his eyes wandered again.
There was a moment in time where this river stopped, almost abruptly, and faded into the abyss. It was always that moment that drew his eyes, because as hard as he might have distracted himself with the colorful ephemeral past he knew that it was the abyss that was reality.
One day a young boy had a dream that he was a notebook, he watched the world out of blind eyes and deaf ears, the world trickling down to him instead through thoughts of ink left from the hands of men. In each black letter he tasted the feelings left behind; those sweet tangents of thought that had seeped down the white pages to his own starved lips. He knew however, even as a notebook, that he was truly a young boy only dreaming that he was a notebook and waited patiently for the day he would awaken.
He did wake up one day only to find himself confused, for his dream had seemed so real, and he wondered was he the boy dreaming of notebooks or the notebook dreaming of boys. Having dreamed of words for so long he found that he could no longer easily tell the difference, men and notebooks seemed to think the same thoughts and yearn for the same feelings. In fact, in a panic, he began to realize that he could in fact not tell the difference at all and could be either the notebook or the boy at that particular moment.
And so the story went, and so Tom Riddle dreamt it to be.
The abyss often watched him as well, with almost knowing eyes, not a black abyss but white. White like the thin, unmarked, pages of an empty journal filled with the potential of infinite thoughts and paintings and thus containing nothing at all. This, the abyss would say to him in its own silent tongue, is what you are as well; the potential of things.
He contemplated briefly throwing stones into that white leering grin the abyss often wore, but he had already thrown many of his own stones, thoughts shouted into the face of nothingness were reduced to nothing in themselves. He'd long since gotten tired of that game.
Tom Riddle had not always been dreaming just as he had not always been a notebook. He had once been human, no that wasn't quite right, he had once been a wizard. He'd found, after much contemplation, that they weren't quite the same thing. Before he had been a wizard he had been human but wizardry had changed him, had changed his thoughts, and his essence as well. Wizards were innately powerful, they had no need of a higher god, saw nothing of the fatalistic nature of life only their own power and the power of their peers. They had no sense of true tragedy.
As a wizard the young Tom Riddle had fully embraced this philosophy and made it his goal tower above death itself. He spent years researching, sharpening his knife upon his own ambition, until one day he found a way to circumvent his mortal nature. The young Tom Riddle, the wizard Tom, created a new name for himself, a flight from death, and like a well-practiced actor fashioned a new face that would bring him power. He planned his immortality, deciding to divide his soul into pieces and to hide them in the world's wonders. The first piece he placed inside a plain black notebook, and there it remained, the Tom Riddle that was not quite Tom Riddle.
After that moment Tom Riddle in the notebook lost touch with the Tom Riddle in the outside world, Lord Voldemort as he called himself. For a while they communicated, the dark lord writing in thin spidery letters that tasted of ash, but then the words stopped and the abyss began to grow.
He had very little knowledge of the outside world, only brief tangents he had gathered from his other's mind, but that had been many years ago or perhaps only days, time was somewhat warped inside the diary. For a while this had concerned him, as he had wanted to know if his other had been successful or not, and he had paced through the corridors of his prison with his eye forever trained on the abyss waiting for a word or two to pass through. Those had been the days when he had raged against his voluntary imprisonment, screaming at the abyss, in order that someone might tie him back to the physical plane.
Eventually though Tom began to dream, and in dreaming he realized he was no longer Tom Riddle. In horrified thoughtful silence he watched as the memories rolled past and realized that he couldn't recognize himself in a single one, it was like watching a prototype of himself, vaguely similar in features and thought but only in a rough manner. Only the beginnings of his personality and thoughts were in that boy, but nothing more than a distant bond at best. If he wasn't the boy he used to be then, he continued thinking in dumb silence, how could he be that man on the other side of the notebook?
He owed that other Tom Riddle nothing, no allegiance, no loyalty, because in the end they were not the same. He was Tom, the notebook, the other was Tom, the god, and they would never again be what they were.
After that he no longer screamed for attention from the outside world, nor for the table scraps of letters left by his counterpart, and settled instead to watch over the flow of his life before the abyss (the notebook) and wonder if he was a notebook or a man or something that was neither at all.
Somehow he felt that outside his white walls the world was burning, even while he dreamed, and somehow he could only watch those invisible flames with patient dead eyes. He sometimes brought himself to wonder what forgotten corner he had been stashed in, what dusty bookshelf now held his prison unknowingly, and did it matter at all anymore?
So he sat still within himself, attempting to feel the altered pathways of time within the notebook, and watched as his own mind floated past him among the pristine pages.
Only then when an eternity had passed, or perhaps in an instant, the game board changed and the words reigned down from the physical realm.
And there was noise, color, and light.
They were not his other's words, not the sickly lettering of the Lord Voldemort, but rather the thin messy scrawl of a child who has written too few words in his lifetime. The voice, even in those two words, retained a brightness a sense of faith and trust in the notebook itself that caused the very foundations of the pages to succumb to tremors.
But even as he took in those first two words the onslaught continued, humming in his ears and through his eyes, thought emotion and words everywhere.
Today the Dursley's took me to the book shop. I almost had to stay with Mrs Figg but she was busy today, so I came too. Aunt Petunia says Dudley needs lots and lots of books for school, Dudley doesn't want any but they'll get them anyway. I like books sometimes, but books are for Dudley to learn and not for me.
(Tom listened, fascinated as the emotions and thoughts roll past him. He imagined that hearing this in person or perhaps even hearing it after having been used to human interaction, and he would be bored out of his mind but now everything is color.)
I didn't think I'd get anything. But then I found a notebook, I guess you Diary, and it was really weird but not weird. You seemed alive, or living.
(He sensed the wonderment in the tone of the words, but not wariness, only a bizarre sense of rightness as if the boy hadn't been surprised but felt he should have been.)
It was like a hum, or a beating heart. Not hearing with ears, or touching, just a feeling like a drum beat in my head. And it was there, everywhere, but not real at all.
I wasn't going to take it, but then I took it to the clerk and he said there was no price, that I could keep it. Just like that. I don't have many things, so even if I don't write a lot I took it, because it gets to be mine.
That's all for today.
And just as suddenly as it was there it was gone. As if it had never existed and Tom Riddle was dreaming once again.
Eventually Tom began to piece together the events that had led him to Harry Potter. Not through any clues of his own but rather through Harry's comments that sporadically would drift down from that other reality.
He did not know what had happened to his other half, Voldemort as he had taken to calling himself exclusively toward the end, but it could not have been the success he desired. Somehow by nineteen eighty eight the horcrux that was Tom Riddle's diary had found its way into a muggle book store and into the hands of an unsuspecting child.
As Tom sat and thought within his empty realm he considered the events that could have occurred in reality.
One, somehow his other self had been defeated and now his followers had placed the notebook in a place where it would not be detected until Tom inside the notebook had enough time to gain the power necessary to take physical form. Tom doubted this was the case, because although it would be the least detectable means of resurrection (no one would bother checking for magical comas in a muggle child) given the pureblood status of his followers he did not believe they would give the notebook to anyone other than a wizard.
Two, Voldemort had hidden the notebook (or forgotten it) in a neglected hiding spot that eventually turned into a building or some other muggle structure and slowly but surely the notebook had made its way through hands until it had reached a book store with no price tag to be picked up by a young boy. This, he also doubted, as Voldemort's entire purpose in conquering Magical Britain was to obtain immortality and power, he would have kept the notebook well-guarded and any muggle that had stumbled across it would have died an instantaneous and terrible death.
And third, Voldemort had been defeated and his followers were left unaware of the importance of the black notebook he had kept with him. Having given it to one of his more trusted lieutenants Voldemort passed on unaware that the notebook sat in the house of a pureblood in the open for anyone to see. When the followers were found by the aurors, and it would not be too soon after given the mental status of the average minion, they would find the notebook sitting out in the open but find it uninteresting and throw it into the muggle abyss where it drifted until it found a bookshop.
It had been a long time since he'd thought politics. At first he had been tempted to throw his curiosity into the abyss, after all it wouldn't truly matter until the events unfolded further, eventually reaching the world within the notebook. Something stopped him though, not quite a thought but not a whim either. No, it was a conviction.
The boy wrote diligently, almost obsessively, as if he had nothing else to do with his time. Not always words or reports of his days either, sometimes snippets from stories he had read, movies he had seen, and small childish sketches. And with all of these were sentiment and thought behind them, the boy poured his soul into the pages and filled everything he touched with color. In the distance of the pages Tom could see the northern lights that were Harry's memories, dancing just beyond his own, lacing into one another with ease and life.
His name was Harry Potter and he lived with his aunt, uncle and cousin. He called them the Dursleys and very rarely spoke of them at all, with little emotion only a dull resignation and slight bitterness. His parents had died when he was very young, he had been told in a car crash, but his other relatives had thought they were terrible people and thus Harry didn't get many details and didn't ask. He worked the house most days and slept in a cupboard beneath the stairs, on the walls he kept various drawings and a few toys he had managed to steal from Dudley when he wasn't looking.
They called him a freak.
Harry had noticed that odd things did occur around him every once in a while, but he had dismissed them easily enough, believing himself to be perfectly average in every way he could think of.
The thing was that he wasn't. Even through the memories, thoughts, words, and emotions Tom could sense the raw power leaking from the boy. Everything around him burned, his magic ever expanding, until Tom began to wonder if there was such a thing as infinite power not to be earned through blood, sweat, and tears but rather through pure chance.
Harry Potter was eight years old and no one had told him he was a wizard. Harry Potter felt more powerful than anyone Tom had ever met. Harry Potter was completely unaware of his talents and seemed he would be likely to remain so even with the letter he would no doubt receive.
And this was where Tom found himself facing a decision. By all rights if he had been deliberately placed with this child he would be expected to drain his life force, return to the mortal plane, and attempt to find his other and pledge his loyalty to the cause. It was what was expected of him, even if it wasn't the case he had been handed a priceless opportunity in young powerful Harry.
However, that was all terribly predictable.
Tom had spent more than fifty years as a notebook, he was getting tired of predictability.
What was it that tied him to his other self? A soul? Voldemort had severed those ties long ago. A history? The memories before the split were hazy at best only becoming clear with much introspection and even then they seemed more like the experience of watching a play rather than memory itself. There was the compulsion to be loyal, to remain true to himself, but upon reflection it proved to be little more than that. A habit.
Should Tom ever return to the mortal plane and his other self was still alive who was to say his other wouldn't simply destroy him in fear of being usurped.
Tom in the notebook might no longer have the human magic or the body but given how likely his other was to rent out space and magic to the notebook; he felt that he would find more success in a field that was not Voldemort.
He could easily destroy young Harry Potter, steal his body and magic, and then he would find himself with all the mighty power of an eight year old wizard living with abusive muggles. Again.
Besides he was curious.
So with a small smile he began to speak back to the words that fell from beyond the abyss and waited to see what might happen next.
For the first time in his life Harry felt he had found something special. Not only special, but his, meant for him alone and no one else. For a while the notebook had just been a notebook, he'd noticed that the words disappeared as soon as he wrote them but nothing more than that had occurred. He'd written in each entry and watched as they disappeared, figuring it would be nice if Dudley ever decided to read his diary only to find nothing was there.
But one day the notebook started talking back.
Right after finishing his diary entry for the day, this one on Dudley, he waited for the words to fade before shutting the notebook. The words did absorb back into the pages (or whatever it was the notebook did) but then just before he was about to close it spots of ink began to bleed back through.
He watched fascinated as a single sentence appeared.
Well, that was enlightening.
Harry dropped the notebook so that it remained open, that single sentence remaining in very legible black letters staring back at him.
(What was really strange though was that in spite of the elegant lettering Harry could feel the sarcasm dripping from every word, almost as if a voice had accompanied those letters.)
After a minute or so another sentence appeared.
I'm going to assume you're still in the room and are just ignoring me out of shock and terror that a sentient journal actually exists. Do try to reply soon though, my sense of real time gets muddled if there are too many delays in your responses.
Harry wasn't sure what he thought of when he pictured a talking notebook but it certainly wasn't this. He gaped at the black notebook and the letters that continued to appear. They stared back at him patiently, almost with a sense of wry amusement.
He grabbed for his pen which he had dropped on his cot and hurriedly scratched out the first question that came to mind, "Who are you?"
I think it's a bad sign when I have difficulty answering that question.
There was a slight pause, the words fading back into the notebook. Finally a new statement appeared.
You may call me Tom.
Harry felt that he was missing some key word there that would explain what the notebook, Tom, meant but he couldn't wrap his head around it.
Finally he wrote his next question, "Are you a magic notebook?" He felt kind of silly writing it but then he wasn't sure what else there was to write.
(And again he got that curious feeling of emotions emanating from the book, that same amusement strengthened), Yes.
"Oh," Harry said out loud to himself. So, Harry had found a magic notebook in a book store and it was now talking to him and appeared to be wanting a conversation. He really couldn't think of anything to say though. Finally after much thought he wrote, "Were you always a notebook."
That is also a difficult question to answer.
Again this statement faded rather rapidly and was replaced with new lines of carefully written words.
I am not certain I am a notebook for one thing, I reside within the notebook, take the notebook's form, but I am not the notebook itself. I do not feel connected to its physical form, for example I have no way of detecting the reality that exists outside the notebook without a human mediating (in this case you) whereas if I was more securely tied to the notebooks physical form I'd think I'd have more sensory perception than I do now. (Although without a nervous system everything is kind of iffy isn't it?)
To answer your question though, I have not always taken this form. However, I'm not entirely certain that the being I was before entirely represents me now. I have his memories, but little else, I am connected to him by threads that would be easily severed.
I suppose you would say that I was once human.
Harry read this and then reread it, it really didn't make too much sense to him. Tom, he was finding was way smarter than Harry was, probably older too from the sound of it. He decided to boil down that giant rant into that last sentence. Tom had once been human. Well, that led him to the next question.
He waited until the letters faded before writing again, "How did you become a notebook?"
There was a longer pause this time, but Harry knew that this pause was different. The others Tom had been thinking of how to phrase his thoughts, this was a darker pause, as if he knew the exact answer and was not sure he wanted to say it. When the response appeared it was a single word, darker than the others had been, and it carried a flatness that seemed to echo throughout Harry's cupboard.
Harry didn't want to ask what that meant, the tone told him enough.
Thankfully at that point he was saved by needing to complete chores for Dudley, he wrote hastily back, "Look, I have to go, I'll be back later."
The feeling of doom in the room lightened somewhat as Tom responded, Of course.
Since then Harry had started talking to Tom multiple times per day. At first he had wondered if he really wanted to, Tom was really confusing sometimes, but somehow he had found himself picking up his pen. Still, every once in a while he would get that feeling of foreboding, almost dread as he watched those foreign letters rise up to meet him, a feeling that he could only describe with words he snatched from Tom as in his own head he could only think of the word bad.
But, he'd think, Tom was really his only friend. Tom was the first person to actually talk to him, help him, listen to what he said without assuming he was a freak. More than that even, despite his uncaring tone Harry got the feeling that Tom did care, and carefully listened and remembered everything Harry said for later use.
It was interesting though, talking to Tom. Sometimes Tom would ask about Harry's life, very few times he'd give details of his own. Very soon though Harry discovered that Tom knew everything. Before Harry had met Tom he'd been an average student, he'd never really applied himself, but afterwards he'd found himself proclaimed as a gifted student just from things he'd learned offhand from Tom. Harry had taken a dictionary and thesaurus into the cupboard beneath the stairs just to translate some of the things Tom said. Oftentimes the most interesting topics were the hardest to understand.
It was nice, Harry thought, having a friend. He could see what all the fuss was about. It just made things so much more bearable, to be able to get away from the world, even if he had to do it in a cupboard with an enchanted notebook. He didn't always tell Tom what was going on in the real world, he'd never told Tom everything that happened at the Dursleys', but even without that he felt that there was no need to talk because Tom was willing to listen.
Somehow though this thought didn't always feel exactly right. It wasn't so much that Tom didn't ask and left Harry to decide what he would tell, it was as if Tom already knew. As if, despite his claims, he somehow saw beyond the walls of his own reality and into Harry's. There was an odd quietness that occurred whenever Harry mentioned the Dursleys, and for a moment the room would become cold, but then it would pass and they'd talk about other things.
This, Harry would think using one of Tom's borrowed phrases, is the shadow of things to come.
And yet in spite of this thought he couldn't abandon the notebook, couldn't leave Tom to a fate of dust and mold that would await him in the cupboard's forgotten corner. Late at night, the notebook closed and his eyes staring at the low ceiling, he would think of everything that meant anything to him and would find Tom near the top of the list. It was one thing, he thought, to have a friend but this was something else… Something far more worrying.
But he couldn't condemn Tom to that place.
Tom called it his kingdom, his garden, all sorts of terms, but every time he went into detail Harry felt his dry amusement fade into some feeling Harry couldn't name. It was the feeling of looking into a deep well, where one couldn't see the bottom, and throwing a stone in desperately listening for it to hit the water, and never hearing a thing. A place without time, Tom had said, without change, without space, without anything but his own thoughts and emotions. Harry hadn't read the bible much, the Dursleys weren't very religious, but after speaking with Tom he didn't think Hell was filled with fire and screaming and pain, Hell was the notebook.
Besides, they were only idle thoughts.
So Harry asked Tom about the world and ignored the creeping certainty in his stomach that these were the shadows painted by large and looming events that stood just beyond the horizon.
Author's Note: So if you're here for the first time or if you're revisiting I have edited this chapter to tone down Harry's too impressive vocabulary, the first entry is entirely rewritten and words here and there are replaced in the third section (the narrative from Harry's perspective). He still sounds a bit older than eight in third person narration (at least from my point of view) but this is after a good long while with a dictionary and picking up things from Tom.
If you are here for the first time this is a diary centric fic, because let's face it horcruxes are pretty cool.
Thank you to everyone who pointed this out, because you were right, Harry didn't sound eight at all.
Readers and reviewers, you guys are wonderful, reviews are appreciated.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.