Voldemort's Mother, Merope Gaunt, Gets The Feature Treatment In New Pottermore Content

The official Harry Potter website-slash-social network prides itself on publishing "[e]verything you never knew you wanted to know about the wizarding world." A new Pottermore feature article turns its eye to one of J.K. Rowling's most-tragic figures. Grab your tissues, folks, because today we're talking about Voldemort's mother, Merope Gaunt.

Potterheads know that the parallels between Lord Voldemort and Harry Potter could fill a book of their own. Many of the commonalities — orphandom and Parseltongue, for example — are the direct result of Voldemort's first attempt on Harry's life. But there are other eerie similarities that cannot be explained by Harry being a Horcrux, such as the deaths of both men's mothers.

We all know that Lily Potter sacrificed herself in an attempt to save her son's life, and that the love from that sacrifice is what ultimately protected Harry from Voldemort's Killing Curse. But many may not remember that Merope was put in a similar situation, only to make the opposite choice.

Merope endured constant abuse from her father and brother. When they were carted off to Azkaban, however, she and her magic flourished. Already in love with the dashing, rich Muggle, Tom Riddle, Merope found some way to bewitch him into loving her back. After she was pregnant with their son, she stopped using magic to influence Tom, because she believed he truly cared for her. But he didn't, and he left her without a second thought. Later, Merope found herself at Wool's Orphanage in London. She died shortly after giving birth, but lived long enough to tell the nurse his name: Tom Marvolo Riddle.

Now, you may be thinking, But people die in childbirth all the time! She had a hard life. Isn't it possible that she was just too sick to go on? Well, certainly, that would be possible — if Merope had not been a witch.

In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore clearly does not believe that Merope was doomed to die at the orphanage. He tells Harry: "Merope refused to raise her wand even to save her own life."

His mother's decision had a huge impact on Voldemort's character. Because Merope gave up on life, her son was born into a world that had no love for him, and so he never developed the capacity to love or to understand it. This is why he does not hesitate to kill Harry after killing Lily: because he does not think that a mother's love will actually protect her son.

The Pottermore article, titled "The Sad History of Merope Gaunt," is a quick read. But if, like me, you'd forgotten how truly pitiable Voldemort's mother was, it's a difficult piece of writing as well. It would be easy to cast off Merope as a selfish, dim woman who made bad decisions and saddled the world with Lord Voldemort's terror, except that it isn't. As Dumbledore puts it:

Yes, 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.

Image: Warner Bros.; young and naive still/Tumblr