|"Are you a wizard or not?"
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- "In any case, within a few months of the scene we have just witnessed, the village of Little Hangleton enjoyed a tremendous scandal. You can imagine the gossip it caused when the squire's son ran off with the tramp's daughter, Merope."
- —The tale of the unlikely marriage[src]
The wedding of Tom Riddle Senior and Merope Gaunt was held in either the autumn or winter of 1925. The wedding likely took place in Little Hangleton, since both the bride and groom had lived in the village prior to the marriage.
Their marriage only lasted one short year, before Riddle abandoned his pregnant wife.
Tom Riddle was a snobbish Muggle sqiurearch who was in a relationship with a woman named Cecilia, while Merope Gaunt was a witch who came from a poor, abusive household. Merope developed an unhealthy attraction to Riddle, often watching him in secret. The marriage was instigated by Merope's use of a powerful Love Potion to drug Riddle or her casting the Imperius Curse on him, forcing him to fall in "love" with her. The marriage was regarded as scandalous by the people of Little Hangleton, due to the bride and groom's extremely different backgrounds.
Merope was a pure-blood witch, the last daughter of a very ancient pure-blood supremacist wizarding family known as the House of Gaunt, who were all denounced by the villagers as mentally unstable due to generations of inbreeding and impoverished since the their inheritable gold was squandered. The groom was a Muggle, the son of the wealthy Thomas Riddle and Mary Riddle, who were generally disliked among the villagers, also due to their attitude.
Only Merope's father Marvolo Gaunt and brother Morfin Gaunt were absent at the wedding, since they were both arrested by the Ministry of Magic months prior. Although the marriage raised plenty of eyebrows, there were some in Little Hangleton who thought that due to the unpopularity of both families that the bride and groom may have found commonality; in essence Merope and Tom were two lonely young people who found soulmates in each other.
Marvolo's reaction, after being released from Azkaban, was much more severe. He returned home, foolishly expecting to find his daughter with a hot meal prepared for him, but instead found his house abndoned with a clear inch of dust and a letter from Merope explaining what happened. Upon learning that his daughter married a Muggle, the shock was so great that he never acknowledged her existence again and it may have contributed to his early death. Or perhaps, he was so dependent on Merope for so long, that he never learned how to feed himself and soon starved to death. In any case, his time in Azkaban had greatly weakened him and he never lived to see Morfin return home. Upon his own release, Morfin labelled his sister a "little slut" who dishonoured the name Gaunt.
- "Within a few months of their runaway marriage, Tom Riddle reappeared at the manor house in Little Hangleton without his wife. The rumour flew around the neighbourhood that he was talking of being 'hoodwinked' and 'taken in'... He left her, never saw her again, and never troubled to discover what became of his son."
- —The circumstances of Tom Riddle Snr's marriage[src]
Although no one knew at the time, the wedding would end up becoming one that had shaped the history of the wizarding world, as well as causing some of the most notorious atrocities in the history of that world and the Muggle world. On 31 December, 1926, Tom Marvolo Riddle, the only child of Merope and Tom, was born. The younger Riddle would as an adult become known as Lord Voldemort, the most powerful Dark Wizard in history. The revelations of his paternal lineage disgusted the younger Riddle to the point where he despised Muggles and wizards with Muggle relations for the rest of his life. Tom Riddle Jr appeared to believe that his father willingly married his mother and abandoned her once he found out she was a witch.
Merope's act of using magic to coerce Tom into this wedding is a symbolic reason for Voldemort's inability to understand love, as there is little more prejudicial ways to enter the world than as the result of such a loveless union.
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (First mentioned)