Morfin taunts Merope

Merope Gaunt is chastised by her father and brother for looking at a Muggle named Tom Riddle

Extract from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

By J.K. Rowling

The jingling, clopping sounds of horses and loud, laughing voices were drifting in through the open window. Apparently the winding lane to the village passed very close to the copse where the house stood. Gaunt froze, listening, his eyes wide. Morfin hissed and turned his face towards the sounds, his expression hungry. Merope raised her head. Her face, Harry saw, was starkly white.

‘My God, what an eyesore!’ rang out a girl’s voice, as clearly audible through the open window as if she had stood in the room beside them. ‘Couldn’t your father have that hovel cleared away, Tom?’

‘It’s not ours,’ said a young man’s voice. ‘Everything on the other side of the valley belongs to us, but that cottage belongs to an old tramp called Gaunt and his children. The son’s quite mad, you should hear some of the stories they tell in the village –’

The girl laughed. The jingling, clopping noises were growing louder and louder. Morfin made to get out of his armchair.

‘Keep your seat,’ said his father warningly, in Parseltongue.

‘Tom,’ said the girl’s voice again, now so close they were clearly right beside the house, ‘I might be wrong – but has somebody nailed a snake to that door?’

‘Good Lord, you’re right!’ said the man’s voice. ‘That’ll be the son, I told you he’s not right in the head. Don’t look at it, Cecilia, darling.’

The jingling and clopping sounds were now growing fainter again.

‘“Darling”,’ whispered Morfin in Parseltongue, looking at his sister. ‘“Darling”, he called her. So he wouldn’t have you anyway.’

Merope was so white Harry felt sure she was going to faint.

‘What’s that?’ said Gaunt sharply, also in Parseltongue, looking from his son to his daughter. ‘What did you say, Morfin?’

‘She likes looking at that Muggle,’ said Morfin, a vicious expression on his face as he stared at his sister, who now looked terrified. ‘Always in the garden when he passes, peering through the hedge at him, isn’t she? And last night –’

Merope shook her head jerkily, imploringly, but Morfin went on ruthlessly, ‘Hanging out of the window waiting for him to ride home, wasn’t she?’

‘Hanging out of the window to look at a Muggle?’ said Gaunt quietly.

All three of the Gaunts seemed to have forgotten Ogden, who was looking both bewildered and irritated at this renewed outbreak of incomprehensible hissing and rasping.

‘Is it true?’ said Gaunt in a deadly voice, advancing a step or two towards the terrified girl. ‘My daughter – pure-blooded descendant of Salazar Slytherin – hankering after a filthy, dirt-veined Muggle?’

Merope shook her head frantically, pressing herself into the wall, apparently unable to speak.

‘But I got him, Father!’ cackled Morfin. ‘I got him as he went by, and he didn’t look so pretty with hives all over him, did he, Merope?’

‘You disgusting little Squib, you filthy little blood traitor!’ roared Gaunt, losing control, and his hands closed around his daughter’s throat.


Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

By J.K. Rowling