Author's Note: Thanks Folk for helping with this story as well as my other stories.

DISCLAIMER: I don't own anything. All characters belong to J.K. Rowling. The lyrics have been taken from Janis Ian's song At Seventeen.

The Shadow of a Woman

I learned the truth at seventeen,

That love was meant for beauty queens,

And high school girls with clear skinned smile,

Who married young and then retired.

The world was younger than today

When dreams were all they gave for free

To ugly duckling girls like me.

Yes, I was only seventeen, and life was over for me. He left. I cried, clung to him; he pushed me away, disgusted. I did not exist for him. When did I ever exist for anyone? I always was a shadow, a shadow that was always there, but which nobody gave much thought to. I am still a shadow. Nobody remembers me; perhaps I don't deserve to be remembered. What had I done in life? I was an obedient daughter and an obedient sister. I withstood all that they said to me, all that they did to me; I hid all the scars that they inflicted upon me in the darkness of the night when I would cry alone in my bed. Not that I needed to hide anything, they would not have noticed anyway, I wasn't there, remember? So I lived, existed, never protesting, never rebelling, just playing the shadow, till that one fateful day when that man arrived from the ministry to arrest my brother. He was good man, tried to help me, to save me from the abuses of my family, poor man! If he only knew what it would lead to!

So they took my father and my brother away, and I was alone. Alone! Free to do what I willed, free to use powers! My powers, I could do magic! My poor father, if he only knew!

And so I did what I had wanted to do, had dared only to dream about till then. How old was I then, sixteen? It was a hot summer day, and he was riding by our hut. I stepped outside and waved at him. I remember it as if it was yesterday. He was looking dashing in a long-tailed morning coat, black wool with a deep neckline, and probably had just got back from some to-do up at his father's lodge. I asked him to come in for a drink. For a minute I was scared he would refuse—I knew what he thought about me and my family—but it was a hot day and his dress jacket was of thick wool, and he came in. I handed him the drink, my first love potion. He drank it and was at my feet. Oh the feeling of being able to command! We ran away.

Why did I ever venture to tell him the truth? Why? I told him, I stopped making the potion. And the spell broke, my spell on him and myself as well, the spell of a happy life of love I thought I had, the spell of illusion I thought was a reality. I had believed in the shadow of love and now that was gone. And I became a shadow again. I was seventeen at the time. At seventeen I learnt that however great magical powers might be, they could never bring love or obedience. What it brings is a mere shadow that is doomed to disappear sometime or the other.

I wish my son had learnt this too. When he was young, I was proud of him, proud of the powers that I had never fully had yet he had inherited, my little boy! But then I saw he was making the same mistakes. I watched helplessly from beyond as he destroyed himself to become immortal. Seven times! Yet I could not stop him; how could I? I had never found the courage to live for him, or even if I had lived, perhaps I would have remained the same shadow that I always was, the shadow I still am. I, Merope Gaunt Riddle, had lived life like a dead woman. My son lives like he is never going to die. He is wrong—soulless you are not living—and I learned this at seventeen.

He thinks magic to be all-powerful. He thought his father had been the one with magic, for I had died. How could I have explained to him that I never lived?