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Shadow Of A Doubt - A Mini-Ficlet
in response to Tom Riddle (senior) Story Challenge



"Little sister..." a voiced hissed within the darkened realms of the Gaunt household. “Little sister, you aren't gawping at that 'handsome' muggle again through the kitchen window, are you?" Merope Gaunt stood at the rusty old kitchen sink, her bare, and dirty feet standing on tip toes to see over the ledge of the window. At the shrill sound of Parseltongue reaching her unworthy ears, she went flat-footed and scrubbed vigorously on a plate so hard, that it nearly cracked in two.

A non-magical, handsome boy rode past the Gaunt household every Sunday evening with his girlfriend on horseback, marveling at the snake her brother had pounded into the door. She watched him every time he rode by with her oppositely directed eyes, staring oddly out the window. Once she had been seen watching him by her brother, and was pulled away from the sink, her brother marching out the front door in protest, hexing him on the spot so his nose was like a leaky faucet. Their father had nothing to say to that other than "Well done, Morfin. Well done," in a hissing undertone of a praise.

Merope was angered. She knew she could never have the handsome muggle-boy because of her heritage and family ties, also their family being accused of witchcraft many times over and over again. Though this conspiracy amongst the muggle townspeople was true, Merope wanted to keep her mouth shut about it and stay away, not that she had a choice to do so anyway. Returning to scrubbing the filthy dishes, not that scrubbing them made any difference to their rusty and dirty texture, she averted her crossed eyes down to the floor. "Doing nothing but my chores, Morfin, doing nothing," she stated quietly to her brother.

He appeared in the far corner of the grimy kitchen, shoelaces trailing on the floor with disgust. His eyes too, were crossed, and his face bore an unbearable grin of delight. "I caught you," he hissed. "I was watching you look at him. Father will be displeased once he gets a load of you fancying lower, filthier blood then yourself. Not that you are even worthy of the pureblood title of 'Gaunt'," he switched to normal language, away from Parseltongue, not that it made any difference to Merope.

"I wasn't looking at him. And you wouldn't dare tell father!" Merope whispered dangerously. Even though she could barely do magic, the house recognized her immediate flair of anger and the cups wobbled dangerously on their shelves.

Morfin grinned none-too-fondly at his little sister. "You bet that muggle I would..." He switched back to Parseltongue with a sneer. Merope's pale cheeks pinkened. Morfin let out a horrible chuckle that sounded like dead itself. "You can't love him Merope. You'd never be able to. He'd never want such a disgrace and ugly looking girl like you. Besides, he already has a girlfriend." Morfin pointed out the window and Merope's head snapped around to look.

There he went again, his girlfriend tagging alongside him, wiping sweat from his brow like she was his minion. But oh, how Merope suddenly had a strong desire to be the one out there wiping his brow, being his minion. Attending to his every whim and possible want. Morfin sniggered from behind her. "Go ahead, offer him a drink outside, and see how he'll respond to a filthy little child offering him something to drink. Pity is what he'll feel for you, little sister. Pity and embarrassment," spat Morfin. Merope's cheeks darkened as she ripped her gaze away from the handsome muggle back to her ugly brother.

"Get away from me! You have no business in my personal life! Leave me be!!!" Merope shouted, half in tears, and burst away into her dingy room down the corridor. It was a small room, not offering much personal space and privacy, but Merope decided that this room alone wouldn't do. Staggering over to her small cardboard box of belongings sitting in the closest corner, she peeked through the boarded up window in a slim crack. The dim light hit Merope's crossed eye and her pupil widened to adjust and see that the muggle boy had ridden off over the hill. She frowned. She had just lost her escape route to freedom.

Peeking down into the shabby box, she picked up a slim wooden stick, beaten down with weather and age. Taking it into her small and grimy hands, she twirled it in between her fingers, the dust flying off the ends in a frenzy swirl. Merope grinned wickedly. How she liked the feeling of her old wand back in her hands. She couldn't do much magic; half squib earned her half disgrace from her brother and father. She had hidden her wand, her father threatening to snap it if he ever got a hold of it. And every now and then Merope would pick the wand up, the warm tingly feeling lifting her mood up surprisingly. Occasionally, when Morfin and her father Marvolo were out and about and Merope was alone...she would take the wand into her hands and prance around the house, wishing she could just be a normal witch. Or a normal person with no magical ability.

The door slammed open, sending dust particles flying every which way and light spilling onto Merope's bedroom floor. Merope turned around in a flash, dropping her wand into the box behind her. Her face filled with fear as she saw who was standing in her doorway, an intense look of insanity and irateness on his face. It was her father. Merope staggered backwards into a corner, where little darkness dwelled in the spilling light. "F-Father!"

Her father looked drunken, angry, and near insanity. "MEROPE! You filthy little brat of a witch!" spat her father, spittle dropping onto the floor near Merope's feet. Merope cowered. "You would never do that! How dare you disgrace our family name even further with 'fancying' a mudblood like Tom Riddle! You should know better! I raised you to be worth more than that!"

"F-Father, M-Morfin, he's lying!" Merope shouted back between falling tears, desperate to change the situation. So Morfin had told, and probably with a snicker and smug grin on his face all the while.

"You tell me my son is lying!" Marvolo gasped, his eyes bloodshot and going wide. His face was screwed up and red. He flung out a hand and knocked over a photograph that was sitting on another box, the glass shattering from its frame onto the floor. Merope gasped and covered her mouth. "Damn you for lying to me! How can I even call you my daughter if you are such a disappointment to me! Damn you!" Marvolo hollered.

Merope whimpered. She was at the base of her tomb, digging it all the while. The more she tried to force herself out of the pit, the more dirt got pushed on top of her. "I-I I'm sorry Father! P-Please...I beg you!"

Her father advanced on her, making Merope shrink back into the corner more. "You beg me for what?! Forgiveness! You better think damn twice, girl!" Spittle continued to fly out of his mouth and hit Merope on the face, but Merope was waiting for the real blow. "You're a disgrace! Nothing better than a mudblood..." satisfied that he had gotten the effect out of Merope that he wanted, he turned around with an almighty snarl and slammed the door shut, cocking a heavy deadbolt into place.

Merope shuddered. This was the life she deserved, she decided. If she couldn't have that handsome boy riding past her hovel of a home every Sunday evening after church, then she had no will or reason to live on this life. She deserved every word her father spat in her face, because it was true. Heir of the great Salazar Slytherin or not, a speck on the great piece of armour of the Gaunt family that wouldn't be removed was all she could be.

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Author Notes: I decided to give this challenge a go. Please tell me how this went, I'd greatly appreciate it, as this type of fic is a change from my normal stuff. Thanks so much and I hope I can get enough enthusiasm from you to keep my inspiration going! ~Ginni~

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