Flowers sometimes grew outside their home. When they did, Merope Gaunt spent a lot of her time outside. She would pick the petals off and watch them fall onto the ground. She couldn’t control the cruelty that surrounded her but the flowers always reminded her that life could be nice. Gravel and weeds would dig into her back as she held the flowers into the sky and picked the petals raining them down around her face.
Her father knew how to spew venom and there wasn’t a day that went by when her being wasn’t wounded by his abuse. Her brother was almost just as bad and she knew she wasn’t necessarily a saint herself but Merope couldn’t help but hope that life could be different.
Petals framed her dark and pale features like a crown of a better world. He was a better world. Tom Riddle was a radiant sign that her life could be better. He was everything that the men in her life weren’t. He was her way out.
The love potion should have taken effect. Merope sat among scattered petals and broken stems, daring to hope. She twisted a soft flower petal in her fingers and rested her chin on her knee. She tilted her head and studied the petal like a potions book. Could she ever be so delicate?
She heard the snapping of a twig and instinct took over. She was on her feet and ready to flee at the sign of danger. It wasn’t danger but the man she loved. He was looking at her in a way she’d never seen before. She felt it sweep over her frame and she shivered at the feeling. She was still gripping flower petals in her hand when he stepped forward.
“Merope?” he whispered. Her grip relaxed and the petals fell onto the ground. She took a step forward and almost whimpered at being so close to him. Her heart thundered and she suddenly felt weak.
“Tom?” she sighed. He came closer to her as if uncertain. His features were soft but his eyes were so intense she thought she might fall. How long had she wanted this? How long had she waited to be loved? He was so close now that Merope felt like it was a dream. After all, how many times had she dreamt of this? She reached out a hand and glided her fingertips across his chest, he was real. Tom sharply inhaled at her touch. His hand wrapped around her waist and suddenly there was no space between them. His lips were on hers and she had never felt this before. She felt light like she could fly away. Was this happiness?
“One, two, I’m gonna cast a spell on you, Three, four, watch the owls soar, Five, six, wanna see a magic trick, Seven, eight…” Merope spun in place, her bare feet marking the gravel. She fell to her knees and she saw him. Tom Riddle walking by with his parents. Gravel was digging into her knees and she knew they were scraped but she didn’t care. The wildflowers and weeds hid her from view and she was glad. She didn’t want him to see her like this.
She could hear her father and brother arguing inside and she clenched her fists. Anger surged through her as the wildflowers around her began floating in the air in circles. She could feel her magic acting out and she tried to control it before the Riddles saw. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. One day, her life would be better. One day, she would be happy.
Tom Riddle brushed his fingers across her cheek and kissed her again. He couldn’t explain how he felt. He felt like he was another person living this dream. It overwhelmed him and filled his chest with need. Merope gripped his shoulders and let him hold her.
Tom breathed her in and sighed.
“You’re beautiful,” he breathed and Merope felt like she might faint. This is all she ever wanted, ever needed.
“I love you,” she held her breath. She watched his face for any sign of disgust but only found him smiling sweetly as his lips brushed across her cheek. She needed to hear it. She needed him to say it. Tom leaned into her and kissed her temple.
“I love you,” he whispered and Merope could cry. She let out a giggle that startled her and he kissed her again. Flowers swirled into the air but Tom didn’t notice. Merope tried to control her magic but then she realized she didn’t have to. This was a good feeling, this was good and she sighed happily. She felt like all the darkness that stained her was no longer visible. The venom in her veins washed away and she felt alive. The shadows were gone from her eyes as she looked at him. Who knew that darkness could be so heavy?
Merope knew it was a moment. It was her ticket out of her cruelty. It was a love potion and she knew it but that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to revel in it. Let her play pretend just for a little while. Let her try and masquerade into Tom Riddle’s heart. Tom pulled back so he could look at her. Color caught his eye and he picked flower petals from her hair. He smiled and she held onto him.