Merope Riddle chose death in spite of a son who needed her, but do not judge her too harshly, Harry. She was greatly weakened by long suffering and she never had your mother's courage.
~ Albus Dumbledore about Merope

Merope Gaunt, later called Merope Riddle, is a minor but significant character in the Harry Potter series. She was one of the last members of the Gaunt Family, and a descendant of Salazar Slytherin. She was the mother of Tom Marvolo Riddle, who later became Lord Voldemort. She was also the paternal grandmother of Delphini.

History

Early Life

Merope was born into the Gaunt Family sometime in 1907. Her father was Marvolo Gaunt and her brother was Morfin Gaunt. The Gaunts her very impoverished and she lived in a small shack in Little Hangleton near the property of Tom Riddle Sr., whom she was infatuated with. She wore Salazar Slytherin's locket, which was a Gaunt heirloom.

She was both physically and emotionally abused by her father and brother. This caused her to be unable to perform magic well, which caused them to abuse her further and believe her to be a Squib (the name given to the non-magical offspring of wizards and witches).

It is unlikely that she ever attended Hogwarts.

Bob Ogdin's Visit

Merope was staring at Tom Riddle Sr. In response, Morfin used a curse on him, which caused him to erupt in painful hives. This illegal use of magic caused Bob Ogden to come to their shack in the summer of 1925 in order to summon Morfin to a hearing. While he was there, Odgen witnessed Marvolo physically and emotionally abuse Merope. When Marvolo found out that Merope was infatuated with a muggle, he tried to kill her. Odgen attacked Marvolo to defend her, causing Marovlo and Morfin to both attack Odgen. Ministry officials arrived and arrested Marvolo and Morfin.

Merope's Marriage

Once her father and brother had been taken away, Merope Gaunt was free for the first time in her life. In the absence of her abusive family members and their mockery, she was able to use her magic more easily. Having had enough of her cruel lot in life, Merope, who knew she only had a limited time before her father, Marvolo, returned, started making plans for her escape. These plans included Tom Riddle, whom Merope refused to renounce her feelings for.

What exactly happened is not known, but Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore later speculated that Merope either used the Imperius Curse or more likely, managed to trick Riddle into drinking a love potion. Whatever method she used, Merope's plan worked. Riddle became instantly smitten with her, left his fiancee, Cecilia, and soon married Merope. Their marriage was met with huge disapproval, and caused a local scandal. Merope, however, did not seem to care about this. Having got the man of her dreams, she drafted a final note of farewell to her father and brother, then left Gaunt Shack and Little Hangleton forever.

Merope and Tom Riddle moved to London, where they remained for about a year. Throughout their marriage, Merope was careful to keep her husband under the influence of the spell/potion. The next twelve months were probably the happiest of Merope's life. Then something wonderful happened; Merope discovered that she was pregnant with Tom's child.

Unfortunately this happy phase would not last, for it was around this time that Merope's conscience got the best of her. Despite having got what she had always wanted, Merope loved her husband very much and couldn't bare to keep controlling him as she was. Wanting Tom to love her of his own free will, Merope voluntarily stopped giving him the potion. She hoped that once Riddle was free he would still be in love with her or at the very least, he would do the honorable thing and stay for the sake of his child.

This hope, turned out to be misplaced and forlorn. The moment he came to his senses, Tom Riddle evidently reacted very badly to his situation. It is not known what words were exchanged between the couple, but Merope evidently told Tom enough for him to figure out what had happened. Justifiably and understandably furious, Tom Riddle made it very clear that their "marriage" was over and that he wanted nothing more to do with Merope or her unborn child. Less than a year after they were married, Tom Riddle now once again in control of himself abandoned his wife and returned to Little Hangleton and his parents. He explained to them that he was "hoodwinked" and "taken in". The Riddles, and the residents of Little Hangleton, took this to mean that Merope had deceived Tom. As such, the former forgave their son and welcomed him back.

Riddle would never see his estranged wife again, and did not learn what became of his son until their fateful encounter in 1943.

Childbirth and Death

Once Tom was gone, Merope was left alone and destitute. Heartbroken, unemployed, impoverished and unable to take care of herself, Merope Riddle never the less continued to stay in London, perhaps knowing that she could never return to Little Hangleton again. The loss of her husband and his unrequited love, left Merope either unwilling or unable to use magic, not even to save her own life. Instead, she sold off what little valuables she had left, to keep both herself and her unborn child alive. This included Slytherin's locket, which she sold to Caractacus Burke. He gave her a measly sum of ten galleons, despite knowing full well that the locket was priceless.

On 31st December 1926, Merope Riddle, whose term was up, staggered onto the steps of Wool's orphanage, a muggle orphanage. Once her son was born, Merope told one of the staff members, Mrs. Cole, to name the baby Tom after his father, Marvolo for her father, and that his surname was to be Riddle. This request was honored and according to Mrs. Cole, Merope's last words were that she hoped her son would grow up to look like his father. Merope Riddle died less than an hour later, bringing her tragic life to a miserable conclusion. 

Legacy

Merope's son, Tom Riddle Jr., would grow up to become Lord Voldemort, the most evil dark wizard of all time. Since Voldemort was conceived through a love potion instead of through real love, he was born without the ability to feel love. This is one reason he was so willing to commit mass murder.

After learning that he was a wizard, Riddle initially despised his mother believing her to be a muggle as she succumbed to death, the thing Riddle feared above all others. Upon learning about his connection to Salazar Slytherin and the Gaunt family, hpwever, Riddle's opinion of his mother changed slightly. Following an encounter with his maternal uncle Morfin, Voldemort confirmed that his mother was indeed a witch and that his father was the muggle parent. Riddle concluded and would spend the rest of his life believing that his father had married his mother willingly, but had abandoned her after discovering that she was a witch. This assumption was only half correct.

In the summer of 1943, Voldemort avenged Merope's abandonment by Tom Riddle Sr., as well as her mistreatment from her brother Morfin. After stunning his uncle, the rising Dark Lord went to the Riddle House, where he murdered both his father and his grandparents, before using a memory charm to frame Morfin for the crime. Whilst Merope was never shown using the skill, Voldemort inherited the ability to use parseltongue from her.

Trivia

  • Merope is the name of a daughter of Atlas in Greek Mythology. It is also the name of the mother of Oedipus in Oedipus Rex. Both Voldemort and Oedipus killed their fathers.
  • The flashback scene featuring Merope and her family was cut from the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince because of time and pacing concerns. In the finished film, Merope was indirectly mentioned by Dumbledore as the owner of Salazar Slytherin's ring. However, it was originally present in an early draft of the film's screenplay according to director David Yates. It's unknown if there were any considered actresses to play Merope by that point.

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