Part One

A Squib in a Pureblood Potion Center

Take cauldron (preferably pewter) out and set on ground.

She did just that, holding the object with shaking hands, as though it were to explode at any moment.

Take four teaspoons of dragon blood and place in cauldron.

Trembling, calloused fingers whispered across the many potion bottles, pausing at the scrawled label of Dragon Blood on one of them. They grasped the bottle firmly in a tight grip, and she carefully poured some to the teaspoon, then into the cauldron…and then she did the process again…. One, two, three, four…oh, what would her father say?

He's not going to know, she told herself firmly. And when he does, it will be too late…it will not matter…

Add the pieces of the ten grinded daisy roots.

She sprinkled the ground up plant in. She wondered if the potion would even come out right. Could Squibs make potions? There wasn't really any magic needed in potion making, was there?

Merely one way to find out…

Boil three cups of water (preferably over a fire or on a stove), then add to potion.

Now there was something she knew she was capable of: cooking. Tripping over her skirts in frenzy, she rushed to the tiny kitchen and filled a pot with water. She banged the pot on the wood stove, adding several logs to the fire so it would go faster. The few minutes the water took to boil seemed endless, but at last it was ready. She dropped back down beside the cauldron, amidst her set-up, and pitched the boiling water into the concoction.

Stir in clockwise direction twelve times.

One, two, three…she prayed that her brother and father would not come home from Azkaban earlier than expected, otherwise she'd be ruined…four, five…would they come after her, if she succeeded with her plan?…six, seven, eight…no, not if she succeeded, when she succeeded…she had stood doing nothing but wish for far too long…nine, ten, eleven, twelve…

Add two ashwinder eggs.

She plucked them from the container, and thrust them into the pot with growing confidence. She was going to do this. She was going to change her life…and his.

Sprinkle four pinches of powdered gryffin claw into potion.

What odd ingredients. Dragon blood, ashwinder eggs, gryffin claw…who thought of these things, anyway? She had never paid potion ingredients much mind before, seeing as she was prohibited to touch them. In fact, she was still prohibited to touch them. And yet here she was: a filthy Squib tinkering in a pureblood potion center. She bit back a smile at the thought.

Pour four and a half cups of cherimoya juice in.

The juice showered into the potion. She was careful not to splash any over the sides.

Add a small sprig of peppermint to make potion more enticing to your love.

Enticing was just what she was after. In went the peppermint.

Now add the essence of you to the potion (recommended: three hairs from head. Seven eyebrow hairs is an adequate substitute).

She carefully pulled three brown hairs from her head, and lowered them into the potion.

Stir entire potion ten times counter-clockwise.

She was almost done, she was almost there…she was almost free, free of this life, this hell-hole…

Mix potion into either food or drink and serve to desired person.

She dragged over the banana bread she had baked earlier that day. Lifting the spoon to the potion once more, she scooped some of the liquid up and drizzled it over the baked treat. The banana bread absorbed the mixture instantly. She splashed more of the potion on, until only half remained. With a smile, Merope Gaunt pushed back the hair sticking to her sweaty face, and packed the banana bread in a container. She then stepped over to the chink of a mirror, and attempted to make herself a little more presentable. She smoothed down her skirts, and wiped the sweat from her face. She rubbed off smudges of dirt from her skin, and patted the matted tangle she called her hair flat.

When done, she looked herself over. True, she was far from a beauty, but Tom would look past that. She knew he would. He just needed a little…reinforcement. Her brown eyes gleamed as she envisioned what was to come for both of them.

She tucked the box of banana bread under her arm and pushed the door open, leaving the house for what she knew would be the last time. She was not sorry in the least. She had naught a single happy memory of the place, save for the times she would watch Tom out the window. And now, at last, it was her time, her time to defy her family. She would not cook, clean, or keel over backwards to please them anymore.

Her determined steps thunked solidly on the path towards his house, her eyes set with steel. She knew her goal. Not only that, but she was resolute to reach it. He would be hers, and nobody – not the rich and glamorous woman Cecelia; not her pig of a brother Morfin; not even her father Marvolo, who had controlled her for longer than she could recall – would take him away from her.

At last she reached the impressive Riddle mansion. Grasping the brass knocker firmly, she knocked on the door. Praise the Lord above, Tom Riddle himself answered the door, looking as charming as ever as he smiled at her.

His smile diminished as he saw who the visitor was. No matter, she reassured herself, his smile will never fade ever again when he sees you.

But Tom was a gentleman through and through, so he asked her cordially, "Can I help you?"

"Mr. Riddle," said Merope, giving him a dazzling smile as she held out the box. "I made you some banana bread. Would you like a slice?"

Part Two

A Squib Said to Be a Witch

One Year Later…

Had she thought it would be like this? No, of course she hadn't, ignorant girl that she had been. Why hadn't she realized, why hadn't she thought ahead? This life was nothing like what she had dreamed about for so long. Not even close.

Oh, she had gotten him all right. He was wrapped around her little finger as tight as could be, completely infatuated. His hands holding hers; the sweet whispers in her ear; the coddling and caring; his touch on her skin; the loving light in his eyes as he gazed upon her…all that she had fantasized about, she now had.

And yet…gone was the man she had fallen in love with. Tom was still alive, of course…but he was not as he had been. That potion – her potion – had turned him into little more than a shell that only existed to please her. He was still charming, just as he had been; and he was still kind, just like he was always. But it was a different charming, a different kind. He was charming to her, but it was a mindless sort of charm – reflexive, even. He was still kind, but it was a brainless kind – the type where it all became meaningless. And all she did or said amazed him to no end: he would admire everything from the turkey sandwich she made him for lunch to the way she would put on her shoes. He wasn't really Tom anymore…he wasn't even really human anymore.

Merope had longed for love all her life, and had never received any. She used to wonder what it felt like to know you were cared about, to know that someone would worry if you were hurt or smile when you did something great. When she had fallen for Tom, she had realized what it felt like to love for the first time. But Tom hadn't shared the sentiment.

She wanted someone to love her. She wanted him to love her. The potion was all she could turn to, all she could use. But now, she saw, the potion had not done what she'd wished. The potion had not created love, it had created an obsession.

Merope rubbed her stomach as she felt a small kick inside. She looked down at her expanding belly. Tom had been thrilled when she found out that she was with child, but would he have been without the influence of the potion?

Of course he would have, she assured herself, stroking her stomach. He loves me, and that's all there is to it, potion or not.

Do you really believe that?

She bit her lip.

Tom would love me even without the potion, she told herself.

But what if he didn't? What if he didn't, and he left you?

Her hands tightened around her stomach at the thought. She would have nowhere to turn, seeing as she had left her family and couldn't go back to them. She couldn't be alone. She wouldn't be alone. He was going to love her.

And, even if he didn't, he wouldn't leave her with a baby on the way.

This realization surged her with confidence. Tom was far too moral and sweet to leave his pregnant wife to fend for herself. Even if he didn't love her the way she did him, he would not leave her alone.

The matter was settled. She was going to stop feeding him the potion.

He will love me by now anyhow, unborn baby or no.

She normally gave him the love potion twice a month. This time when the day came around, she did not.

She typically served it to him in the morning, mixed in with his breakfast food. This time she gave him only food. He raved about it, saying it tasted even better than normal. He told her this at least twice a day.

It was a Sunday, the Sabbath, so Tom did not have to go to his job. So the married couple loitered around the house for a little while, then meandered towards the local park and took a stroll. Tom kept up his usual chatter of how gorgeous she looked and how much he loved her. She basked in his compliments, thinking of how wonderful it would be to hear those words come from his mouth when he truly meant them.

They returned home when it began to grow dark outside. The pair ate dinner (which Tom thought was even tastier than normal), then they cuddled on the couch with glasses of wine. It was nearing Christmas time after all, and they wanted to have a bit of a celebration.

"To you," said Tom adoringly, raising his glass in a toast.

"To us," Merope whispered, rubbing her nose with his. Both lifted their glasses to their lips for a drink. Merope smiled at her husband as he took a sip. The potion should be wearing off soon, she thought. She could feel her stomach fluttering in anticipation. At last, she would know what it was to be loved, truly loved.

Tom lowered his glass, a strange, foggy expression in his eyes. He stared at some distant spot over her head, contemplating something only he could see.

"Tom?" she said quietly, her fingers touching his chest lightly.

Tom blinked, and looked down at her. He gave her a smile, but his eyes still seemed clouded. "I'm here," he replied gently, taking her fingers in his own. She smiled back, and took another small taste of her wine. He copied her. The hazy look in his eyes increased, and now as he looked at her it was almost as though he did not recognize her.

"Are you alright, Tom?" Merope inquired. "Are you ill?"

He shook his head dazedly. "No, no…I'm fine…I'm fine…" He shook his head again, as though to clear it, and then took another drink of his alcohol.

She was a little worried about his health, but decided to believe him for now. She nuzzled her head into his neck and breathed in deeply, inhaling his scent. "I love you," she murmured into his skin. She waited for the usual reply of, "I love you too," but it didn't come. She pulled away from him, staring into his dark eyes. He stared back blankly, looking stunned and confused.

"Tom?" she asked. "Tom?" She reached out for him and touched his cheek with one hand. He slowly drew back, his eyes never leaving hers.

Merope pulled her hand back instantly, surprised. Was this the after-shock of the potion? That must be it. The sensation of not having any in your system must make people a little dazed. "Tom," she said kindly, smiling patiently at him. "Tom, it's me. Merope. Remember me?"

His eyes seemed to be searching hers, for what she was not sure. "Yes, I do," he said finally, and relief flooded through her. Eyebrows drawn pensively, he stretched a hand towards her. His fingers brushed across her hair, down her face, then her arms. Then his hand moved to his own lap. He gazed at her piercingly, pinning her to the couch.

"Why do I remember you?" he asked her, making each of his words very deliberate.

She fumbled for a reply, baffled by the inquiry. "I…because you love…because we're…because we used to be neighbours. Remember? I was your neighbour."

"But I have…memories. Memories with you, memories of you. We moved together…and were wed…are expecting a child…" He smiled slightly, and shook his head. "But that's impossible. I must have dreamed it all."

"No," she swallowed, "no. You didn't."

They stared at each other; he questioningly, she imploringly. Suddenly he grabbed her hand and ran his fingers along it. Then he dropped it and snatched her other, doing the same searching motions. His fingers hovered over the wedding ring on her finger, his eyes fixed on the object. She hardly breathed as he stayed frozen like this; all she could do was to wait. Tom slowly lifted his other hand to his face. Releasing her hand from his palm, he raised it to his own, lightly touching the band around his own finger. Abruptly his eyes shot to her, and he pulled away slowly, eyes wide.

"How did…why are…"

She swallowed, searching for words, but he located some first.

"So it's true, what they gossip about in the village," he whispered, his gaze scrutinising, almost terrified. "You and your family practice the Devil's magic. You bewitched me into falling in love with you. You're a witch."

"No, no," she said, "I'm a Squib, and I would never – I'm not – " Her arm approached him, reaching to take his hand, but he jerked back farther.

"Yes, you did," he said. "You put me under one of your spells."

"Tom, it's still me, I haven't – " She moved towards him, but he yelped and pressed himself against the far end of the couch.

"Keep away from me, witch."

"Tom…you…don't you care about me?"

"Why would I?" he demanded.

"You – this – you were supposed to love me – "

"How could I love someone who uses me in such a way?" He stood up, backing away from her slowly, careful not to let his eyes leave her, as though she would suddenly attack. "I – I'm leaving."

She felt her eyes stinging. Lip trembling, she said desperately, "But we're married – and I'm due with child. You wouldn't leave me with the baby – ?"

"That baby is going to be just like you," Tom predicted angrily. "Spawn of the Devil, fiddling away with magic and enchantments and the like – I'll have no part in raising that creature."

Tears falling freely down her cheeks, she rose to her feet and stumbled towards him, grasping his shirt for support. "Don't you love me?" she whispered brokenly.

In fear and rage, he threw her to the floor with a sweep of his arm. "Get away from me, witch!" he cried. Picking up a rocking chair, he held it towards her, as though expecting to defend himself with it. "I'll – I'll harm you if I have to."

She lurched to her feet, backing away from him yet not leaving, refusing to give up on her love. "Tom, Tom, please, just – give me a chance, let me have the opportunity to love you, and you me – "

He leaned towards her slightly, the chair brandished at her chest. Dark eyes regarded her with fire, burning fire, deeper and stronger than any she had ever seen. "Get – out."

Blindly, she staggered backwards towards the front door, hesitating as her fingers touched the cool metal. There was the sound of something heavy being thrown against a wall, making the decision for her, and she crashed through the front door and out into the night.

Part Three

A Witch Who Shall Do No Magic

Several Weeks Later…

It was cold, bitter cold, but wasn't it always these days? Ever since she had lost the house, the temperatures had just seemed to drop even more. She sometimes wondered if someone up there wasn't just smiting her; if He wasn't just trying to make her life even colder than it was.

Tom had left her the night he had discovered her use of the potion, three weeks ago – or at least, she believed it to be three weeks ago; her sense of time had started to become bleary. And then, with no means to support herself, she had lost the house – was it three days ago? – five?

She had sold the only valuable item she owned, a locket her family had owned, and had made ten galleons. But that only provided her several hearty meals and a warmer coat.

She had nothing now. She had nothing, could do nothing, was nothing. The past few days had been spent merely trying to survive. She would scrounge around for food and sleep in alleys, wondering what was to become of all this.

When he had first left, she had discovered that she could perform magic. She had thought herself a Squib her whole life – who knew? The ability had surprised her, to be sure, but it had brought her little joy. She could perform magic, she, Merope Gaunt – she could turn bunnies to chairs and make teakettles dance. But so what? She couldn't make him love her.

Pitching down the road as she searched for Merlin only knew what, she began to notice the cold air. She simply pulled her jacket tighter around her body, and continued careening down the streets.

She didn't know where she was going, nor did she care. What did it matter? All that she'd had left to go to, all she'd had left to live for had kicked her out. Why had he not loved her? How had it all gone so wrong? He hadn't even had the dignity to remain her husband and care for their child, and all because he was afraid of her magic that she hadn't even known at the time existed.

Love. She hated the word. What difference did it make if you loved someone? If they didn't love you in return, it made not a scrap of difference. People would be better off without the whole concept.

And yet…she could still feel her body tingle at the recollection of him; could still feel the pressure of his lips on hers; could still know his eyes, those dark eyes…. She still loved him, damn her foolish self. How could she love someone who she now knew did not love her, and never would? It made no sense, but that was how it went. Her tears, streaming without grace down her cheeks, froze as they met the fierce cold. If only he loved her…

It was snowing. She had not noticed until now. She was surrounded by terrible cold, harsh wind, whirling snow, and her endless misery.

What a wonderful way to ring in the New Year, she thought to herself bitterly. If it is the New Year, like those drunken bastards claimed…

A sudden pain in her lower abdomen sent her bending over, gasping. Then another hit, leaving her nearly winded.

God help her, she was going into labour.

She knew she had to get inside. She was not going to have the damn baby on the middle of the pavement. But where the hell could she go? Where the hell was she?

There would have to be some home around here she could go to. That was her only option. Doing her best to ignore the sharp pains in her abdomen, she continued blundering along in the snow. How long she travelled, she was not sure. Time seemed to fade around her. It was all she could do to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. She ignored the snow, she ignored the cold, she ignored both her physical and emotional pain, and merely stepped, stepped, stepped her way through the snow.

Finally, finally, she saw a building. An orphanage, she realised, as she read the sign. Any building would do. She toppled through the gate and staggered up the front steps, banging the door twice.

A woman around her own age opened the door. Without waiting to be asked, Merope heaved, "I'm going into labour – and I need a place to – "

The woman pulled the door open wider and took the pregnant girl by the shoulders. "Come in dear, come in," she ushered, helping Merope inside. The woman led her into a small room with a bed, which Merope immediately collapsed on, suppressing groans.

"There, there," said the sharp-faced woman, "you just lie there – I'll bring some gin, to numb the pain – "

The woman reappeared moments later in front of her, a large bottle in her hands. She poured some into a glass, slopping a bit over the side in her anxiety, and handed it to her. Merope downed the liquid in one gulp, savouring the taste. True, she would have much preferred the Firewhiskey's burn at that moment, but she was in no position to complain.

The other woman had pulled up a chair beside her bed. Merope guessed she must have looked quite poor, for the girl was crooning, "Shh, it's alright, it's alright. I'll stay here, okay? Don't worry – I'm sure you'll have a fine young baby in no time."

Merope did not want a baby anymore, fine or not. Once she had relished the idea of having her own child to look after, but now the thought seemed a chore. What would be the point in bringing up this kid if her Tom, dear Tom, was not by her side? She could not see anything having a point anymore, in fact. It was all worthless, it was all meaningless. But she could not tell this to the woman, not now, and not ever. As she lurched with another contraction, she found herself murmuring dazedly, "I hope he looks like his papa."

The other female nodded, a curious expression on her face. "Ah."

The clock ticked steadily on somewhere behind her. She could hear it, tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock, the only thing telling her that time was moving on. The female – Merope believed she had said her name was Miss Bole, or maybe Miss Hole – would hum soothing words and pour both herself and Merope gin frequently. Merope drank and cringed and contracted and prayed that this whole experience would be over soon. She had thought her life couldn't be anymore painful or torturous – clearly she had been wrong.

"He's to be named Tom," Merope announced suddenly, in-between sips of the alcohol.

"Oh?" said Miss Dole.

"Yes, Tom, for his father," said Merope. "And his middle name is Marvolo, for my father. And…his surname is to be Riddle."

"Tom Marvolo Riddle?" Miss Jole repeated, with a slight raise of her eyebrows.

"Yes. Yes. Tom. Tom Marvolo Riddle," Merope confirmed faintly, but there was nothing faint about the look she gave the other girl. Suffering eyes fixed hard on Miss Nole's, wanting her to understand that this baby needed to be called by this name, needed to have this identity. He would not have much of one with her as a mother, after all.

To Merope the time that passed felt like days, excruciating, painful days, although in actuality it was only twenty or so minutes. But all of a sudden Miss Lole was beside her, holding out a bundle wrapped in blankets. "Congratulations," she said quietly. "You are the mother of a healthy baby boy."

Merope weakly took the bundle without joy. She parted the blankets and stared down into her new son's little face. Dark eyes, his eyes, stared at her intently. Pale skin, his skin, was spread across the infant's body. A small sprinkling of dark hair, his hair, was atop his head.

He looks just like his papa, she thought to herself. I've gotten my wish.

So that was it, then. She had gotten her wish. Tom Junior looked like his father in miniature. Was this how she was going to go through life? Wishing, then getting, and somehow always being off the mark? She had wished for freedom from her family, and gotten it – but now she was left homeless. She had wished for Tom to love her and wed her, which he did – but now she was loveless and alone. She had wished for her son to look like her former husband – and he did. She had wished to have magical abilities, and she had gotten them – but somehow she knew that she would do no more magic. But it didn't matter, none of it mattered. Not anymore.

He looks just like his papa, she thought to herself again. I've gotten my wish.

My dying wish.

A faint laugh escaped her lips. Miss Whoever-The-Hell-She-Was eyed her strangely. Merope laughed again, and then again. Her laughs were barely traceable, so weak and quiet they were, but they were still there, still rasping against her throat. She knew nothing was funny, yet somehow that only made her laughs increase.

"Are you alright, miss?" the other woman inquired, hovering above her with concern.

Suddenly her eyes stung with tears, and she was overwhelmed with the urge to start sobbing right then and there. No, she was not alright, God dammit! – was she? Maybe she was alright, maybe this was better for her. No more of this pain, no more of this hurt, no more of this suffering and solitude and misery – she wanted it to be over. She opened her mouth to tell Miss Role this, in response to her question, but found a last giggle escaping instead – she was free. And with that thought, Merope Gaunt exhaled her last breath.