In Half-Blood Prince, in chapter 10, The House of Gaunt, Dumbledore shares a memory with Harry in the Pensieve that introduces Merope Gaunt, Voldemort's mother. Merope's father, Marvolo, is cruel to her and calls her "a dirty squib" and "a disgusting little squib." In the same chapter Merope is shown doing magic, just not very effectively. It's clear she's not a squib; Dumbledore later explains to Harry that he believes Merope's magical skill had been stifled due to her father terrorizing her for years. Apparently Merope's magic improved when her father and brother, Morphin, went to Azkaban when Merope was eighteen.

There's no indication that Merope Gaunt attended Hogwarts or any other wizarding school. Her father and brother were both unstable, violent, and basically feral, i.e. hardly the type to homeschool effectively. Yet presumably Merope regularly brewed a love potion (Amortentia?) to control Tom Riddle Sr.

Successfully brewing potions takes training. How did an eighteen-year-old likely untrained witch have either the knowledge or ability to brew a love potion?¹ How did Merope procure a love potion if she didn't brew it herself?²

Please no answers from the HP Wikia. Speculative answers based in the spirit of canon are fine.

¹Amortentia, for example, is introduced as a lesson in Half-Blood Prince, so I'm thinking it must be at least a sixth year level potion.

²I realize that when Merope married Tom Riddle Sr. she must have had access to more money and assets than she previously did, as the Gaunts were completely impoverished.


4 Answers 4


Couldn't find any direct canon evidence. There are a couple of options:

  • It is never explained what the shelf life of potions in HP usually is. But if the potions can keep, it could have been a heirloom from one of her witch ancestors, same as the Gaunt ring was for male ones. It WAS after all an ancient and once powerful/rich family with Slytherin lineage that already had two powerful artifacts (Ring and Locket).

  • She could have had a good potions book (again, likely a heirloom from her witch ancestors).

    Your question seems to imply that you need a great deal of schooling or ability to prepare good potions.

    As we clearly saw from the example of Harry Potter and the Cheating Textbook of Potions, even a completely mediocre wizard with poor potion-making skills can brew great potions if they have good instructions.

  • Her potion wasn't all that good quality due to her poor abilities as a potions maker.

    Remember, Riddle Sr. jumped ship pretty quickly. While Dumbledore speculated that it was because she stopped giving him the potion, it could be:

    • The potion was actually meant to be a long-lasting one-dose thing (NOT the one shown in Hogwarts class), but she screwed it up and it stopped working in less than a year.

    • The potion was shorter-acting (but still somewhat longish, without an antidote like the one Ron took). Yet, Riddle Sr. dumped her unceremoniously right away - and logically speaking she should have seen over time (hours? days?) that he was drifting away and given him more to try and keep him when she noticed. It's possible the effects were much shorter than normal.

  • Related: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/22822/… Aug 31, 2012 at 15:22
  • 1
    @Slytherincess; it could be good for our benefit to comment on which part if this answer you accept (most).
    – Möoz
    Apr 13, 2014 at 22:40
  • 1
    I would like to believe that Merope actually stopped giving the potion to Tom Riddle Sr., because she really couldn't stand deceiving the love of her life. Adds much more tragedy to Voldemort: Genesis. Oct 30, 2017 at 9:09
  • while shelf life of potions was not discussed, this one in particular WAS mentioned. when Romilda Vane gave harry one in the form of a sweet (i cannot remember the exact name) it was old when ron took it, making it significantly stronger than it should have been. so i doubt it was an heirloom potion passed down.
    – Tryce
    Apr 13, 2020 at 11:23

Dumbledore said:

I do not believe her magical powers appeared to their best advantage when she was being terrorized by her father.

After reading that I assumed Merope was not a squib, she couldn't use her powers because of her father constantly terrorizing her, making her feel nervous whenever she was told to perform a spell. That and the fact that she probably never attended an actual school, her powers were there but she couldn't use them because they were underdeveloped.


She could have bought the potion in a shop. Half-Blood Prince chapter 6 shows that the Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes joke shop sells love potions in the front space (not the back room). This shows that selling some love potions is probably not illegal. Perhaps shops in Merope's time sold such a potion as well.

I can't tell how Merope got the money for them though. I'd guess a love potion would get expensive (Fred and George doesn't happen to tell the price in the book), and Merope would need lots of it because she uses it continuously for a long time.


Assuming, as Rowling said, that Merope's powers were being squelched by her terror while she lived with her relatives, and began to show themselves more clearly when they were gone, I think that largely explains it.While it's true that perhaps she could have found a way to get money and buy the potion, I think it's worth noting that Tom Riddle was know for being fairly brilliant in his school days, and that later on, Dumbledore was apparently the only wizard who could match him. He must have been a genius if not at least a highly talented prodigy. Voldy's father was talked about in the book extensively enough in terms of description and it seems that all the villagers had to say was that he was handsome, self-absorbed, wealthy and snobby. Yet no one made a single mention of his intelligence, which likely would have been mentioned if it was remarkable or if he was at least known for being bright. But Voldy's genius/magical talent likely had to come from somewhere, and that means the only other option is Merope.

  • It's possible that the magical skill that Riddle/Voldemort inherited "skipped a generation" (or three). Also, dedication and drive can lift someone with lesser aptitude to exceed those who have greater aptitude, but less ambition; and Dumbledore and Voldemort were both shown to be very ambitious.
    – GreenMatt
    Sep 26, 2016 at 19:07
  • It's true that intelligence can skip generations. Many, many grandparents have wondered how the stupidest son-in-law in history could have been the father of the smartest grandchildren of all time.
    – EvilSnack
    Dec 2, 2021 at 2:42

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