Courage and Love
by Black Lily
There are many, many people at this point in the Harry Potter series who deserve to be honored: Lily and James Potter, who gave their lives for their son; Cedric Diggory, the first innocent casualty in the second war; Sirius Black, the devoted friend and godfather who rushed to his godsons rescue; Amelia Bones, who fought a valiant and losing battle against Voldemort himself; and of course, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, quite possibly the best Headmaster Hogwarts has ever seen.
But I’d like to add another person to the list of the honored. She may not appear to belong there at first glance. She was not an immensely powerful witch; in fact, she didn’t try to be. She was not selfless or valiant; indeed, she was quite the opposite. She lived most of her life under the abuse of her father and brother. But at least once in her life she showed astounding courage and love, only to have her brave action backfire. I am speaking, of course, of Merope Riddle.
Merope has been accused of being extremely cowardly in giving Tom Riddle Sr. a Love Potion in order to make him fall in love with her. But even in this act, there is bravery. Merope went against her father’s wishes, knowing how harsh he would have been on her if he’d been able to find her once he found out. And, in a move worthy of her ancestor, she took what was most important to her by whatever means she needed to use. I am not arguing that it was right of Merope to do what she did, only that it was brave. But the act of courage that I would like to honor her for came months later. As Dumbledore explains, ”Merope, who was deeply in love with her husband, could not bear to continue enslaving him by magical means. I believe that she made the choice to stop giving him the potion.” (British edition, pg. 203). In choosing to release her husband, Merope took a terrible risk. If things had gone as she’d hoped, Tom would have by this point fallen in love with her without the influence of the potion. She would have had her love returned for real, and that would have been a sweeter prize than anything shed ever known. But Merope’s risk did not pay off: “He left her, never saw her again, and never troubled to discover what became of his son.” (Dumbledore, pg. 203).
I’d like you all to consider what you would have done in Merope’s place. Let’s just assume you all gave Tom the potion, to simplify things. You now have nearly everything you’ve ever wanted: a good home away from your family, a baby on the way, enough money to live comfortably, even opulently, judging by the grandeur of the Riddle House, and the love of the man you’ve always wanted to be with, albeit artificial love. However, you are tormented by the idea that you are forcing your love to go along with it. But would you really have Merope’s courage? Would you be able to give up everything in the hopes that it would be worth the risk?
There are many kinds of courage in the world. There is the simple courage of running into battle. There is the choice to give up your life so that another might live. But then there is the courage to stand up to your friends when you think they are doing wrong, like Neville. There is the courage to put yourself at risk by allying with the forces of good, like Slughorn did. And there is the brilliant, amazing courage to give up everything in vain hope for true love. Merope truly loved Tom Riddle, and she could easily have been a coward and relied on her potion to keep him near her. But she chose to let him choose, only to lose him forever. If that is the price of courage, its really no wonder that there are cowards in the world.
And so, I would like to honor Merope Gaunt Riddle. She was not a beloved daughter, sister, wife or mother. But she was a truly loving wife, and a poor, brave soul. She deserves to be recognized for her own brand of courage.