Morfin Gaunt (fl. 1925-1943) was a pure-blood wizard descended from Salazar Slytherin. He was the son of Marvolo Gaunt, brother of Merope Gaunt, and uncle of Tom Marvolo Riddle, also known as Lord Voldemort. After he hexed Tom Riddle Sr. with painful hives, a Muggle who lived near his home in Little Hangleton because his sister was infatuated with him, Morfin was imprisoned in Azkaban for three years. When he returned home, his father and sister had already died. In 1943, Morfin met his nephew, who killed his paternal family and then altered Morfin's memory so that he believed he was the murderer. Morfin died in Azkaban, but not before Albus Dumbledore learned the truth about the Riddle murders.
- Tom Riddle: "...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—"
- Cecilia: "Tom, I might be wrong — but has somebody nailed a snake to that door?"
- Tom Riddle: "Good Lord, you're right! That'll be the son, I told you he's not right in the head."
- — Tom Riddle Sr. and Cecilia discussing Morfin[src]
Morfin lived with his father and sister in a shack near Little Hangleton. Generations of inbreeding in the House of Gaunt caused a defect in Morfin, rendering him mentally deranged and violent. He almost exclusively spoke in Parseltongue and frequently terrorised Muggles, including Tom Riddle Sr. after Morfin noticed his sister watching him with interest. He, like his father, was abusive toward Merope.
- "She likes looking at that Muggle. Always in the garden when he passes, peering through the hedge at him, isn't she? And last night... Hanging out of the window waiting for him to ride home, wasn't she? But I got him, Father! I got him as he went by and he didn't look so pretty with hives all over him, did he, Merope?"
- —Morfin to his sister about her infatuation with Tom Riddle Sr.[src]
Morfin's violent behavior eventually led to the Ministry of Magic pressing charges against him; in particular for causing Tom Riddle Sr., a Muggle, to erupt with hives. Bob Ogden, head of the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol, was sent to summon Morfin to a hearing. Morfin greeted him with his wand in one hand and a knife in the other, hissing in Parseltongue that he was not welcome. Ogden failed to understand until Marvolo appeared and restrained his son. Taking the discussion inside, Ogden explained that Morfin was summoned to a hearing on September 15th but trailed off upon hearing, Tom Riddle and his companion Cecilia pass by, criticizing the deplorable state of the Gaunt shack. Morfin then told his father in Parseltongue that his sister is infatuated with Riddle, causing Marvolo to start to strangle Merope. Ogden used a Revulsion Jinx to separate them and Morfin reacted by firing spells at the Ministry official, including a jinx that caused yellow puss to flow from Ogden's nose. When Ogden returned with reinforcements, he arrested both Morfin and Marvolo. Morfin received a three-year sentence in Azkaban while his father was imprisoned for six months.
While they were incarcerated, Merope married Tom Riddle, probably by using a Love Potion on him. She died soon after giving birth to a son, Tom Marvolo Riddle. Marvolo returned from prison to an empty house and died before his son was released from Azkaban.  When Morfin finally returned, he found his father dead. He, therefore, became the last heir to the Gaunt family and inherited the shack and the family signet ring, their last heirloom. Over the years, Morfin lived in a much more deplorable state than ever, as Merope was no longer there to clean the house. Morfin let his hair grow to extreme lengths and moldy food and dust appeared to cover the entire inside of the house.
Second imprisonment and death
Morfin's teenage nephew came to Little Hangleton to learn about his family in the summer of 1943. He met Morfin, who thought that this stranger looked "mighty like that Muggle", referring to the elder Tom Riddle. He told him of what transpired between the man and Merope, which infuriated Riddle Jr. to the point of seeking revenge. After stunning Morfin, Tom went to Riddle's home and murdered his father, grandfather, and grandmother with the Killing Curse, using Morfin's wand. He covered up his crimes by altering Morfin's memory, causing him to believe he was the killer.
When the Ministry of Magic investigated the crime, Morfin freely admitted to it and was sentenced to life imprisonment in Azkaban. They checked Morfin's wand to see what its last spell was, and saw that it was the Killing Curse. Because of this evidence of Morfin's own, boastful confession, the Ministry saw no need to further investigation by means of Legilimency or Veritaserum. Before leaving, Tom also took the family signet ring from Morfin and wore it like a trophy at Hogwarts, which led Morfin to lament how his father would kill him for losing the ring for the rest of his life. It was eventually turned into one of Tom's Horcruxes.
Albus Dumbledore sought Morfin out in prison, and after difficultly extracting the true memory of his meeting with his nephew, determined that his memory had been tampered with. Dumbledore immediately used the true memory to appeal for Morfin's release from Azkaban. Unfortunately, by that point Morfin was weakened to such an extent that he died before he could be exonerated. He was buried beside the prison alongside the other prisoners who expired within its walls. 
- "The man standing before them had thick hair so matted with dirt it could have been any colour. Several of his teeth were missing. His eyes were small and dark and stared in opposite directions. He might have looked comical, but he did not; the effect was frightening, and Harry could not blame Ogden for backing away several more paces before he spoke."
- —Harry Potter's impression of Morfin Gaunt while in Bob Ogden's memory in the Pensieve[src]
Morfin was described as having thick hair matted with dirt, missing teeth, and small dark eyes that stared in opposite directions. Harry thought such an appearance should be humorous, but instead Morfin looked frighteningly deranged. Upon meeting Bob Ogden, a Ministry of Magic representative, Morfin brandished both a wand in one hand and a short, bloody knife in the other. After his sister's departure and father's demise, Morfin eventually let his hair and beard grow so long that it covered his eyes and mouth.
Personality and traits
Generations of inbreeding in the Gaunt family has caused a defect within Morfin, rendering him an overall violent and deranged individual. Morfin shared the same ideology with his father and liked to torture and hex Muggles, without caring about the law, the community, or anyone else, except for his father, whom he respected, because they were both violent and pure-blood supremacists. As Merope was a blood traitor, Morfin was very disrespectful and abusive to her. After her departure from the shack, he brutally insulted her and called her a thief for stealing the locket heirloom. Furthermore, Morfin was sadistic, as he liked to torture snakes, nailing them to the door, despite his ancestor's affinity towards them. At least one snake of his suffered this fate and he threatened a second with it. After having his memory modified by his nephew, Morfin ended up lamenting on losing the ring, saying nothing else for the rest of his life.
Magical abilities and skills
- Non-verbal magic: Morfin was highly skilled at hexes and jinxes, and could even do them nonverbally, a skill very difficult to master. He attacked Bob Ogden with a jinx that caused yellow pus to flow from his nose without an incantation. He also cast a curse on Tom Riddle which resulted in him being covered in painful hives, though it is unknown if this one was nonverbal. He also sent a flurry of non-verbal hexes at Ogden when Ogden sent a Relashio charm to stop Marvolo Gaunt from strangling his daughter.
- Parseltongue: As with the rest of his family, Morfin inherited the ability to speak to snakes from their ancestor. Morfin was proficient with the language, enough to communicate with his family and Ogden with it.
Morfin's relationship with his family was mixed. He seemed to tolerate and maintain a tenuous relationship with his father. Morfin was very loyal to Marvolo and the family ideals about blood purity as they were both pure-blood supremacists and Marvolo was gentle enough to converse with his son in Parseltongue. He also protected his father when Bob Ogden fired a Revulsion Jinx at Marvolo to stop him from strangling Merope. However, had Marvolo been alive when Morfin lost his father's heirloom ring, their relationship would most likely have turned into a strained one. Even though his father had died, Morfin still continued to lament how his father would kill him for losing the ring; of course, with Morfin's mental instability, this could have contributed to the delusional state he became in Azkaban. Nothing is known about Morfin's relationship with his mother since she is never seen or mentioned.
Morfin, on the other hand, was physically and verbally abusive towards his sister, Merope like his father was. He would enjoy seeing her being abused by their father and even mocked her romantic feelings of Tom Riddle Sr. when he noticed her watching him. He also laughed when Marvolo tried to attack her when he revealed that she was in love with the Muggle who lived on the hill over their village when Bob Ogden visited. After Morfin was imprisoned in Azkaban, Merope was very pleased to be free from her abusers. While incarcerated during his 3-year sentence, his sister married Riddle Sr., but Tom later left her while pregnant with their only child. Morfin even said that Riddle Sr. leaving Merope served her right for 'marrying filth' and robbing them of Salazar Slytherin's locket, and called her a little slut who dishonored him and Marvolo.
Tom Riddle Sr.
It is unknown if Morfin had met Tom Riddle Sr. in person, but it is known that Morfin watched him from a far distance before he hexed him because he noticed his sister romantically looking at him. He most likely hated him even more when he found out that the two had gotten married. Many years later, Morfin was framed for murder by his nephew by causing him to believe he killed his brother-in-law and his parents.
Tom Marvolo Riddle/Lord VoldemortMorfin's relationship with his nephew, Tom Riddle is unknown. They did not know each other well since Riddle had spent his life in a Muggle orphanage and Morfin most likely never knew about his sister's pregnancy. Although, it is most likely that Tom Riddle didn't care about Morfin and deliberately framed him of murdering the Riddle family. Voldemort also most likely knew that he had encountered his uncle.
In the summer of 1943, Morfin seemed to not know that he had encountered his half-blood nephew (the son of his 'blood traitor sister' and the 'filthy Muggle' he attacked 18 years earlier). At the moment he saw Riddle, he thought it was his hated Muggle brother-in-law, but then realised it wasn't because he suddenly started speaking Parseltongue. After having his memory modified by his nephew, Morfin did not remember anything from the night before and was wrongfully convicted by the Ministry of Magic for the murder of his brother-in-law and his parents.
- The name Morfin is a variaton of "Morfey", an Anglo-French surname meaning "ill-omened," or "ill-fated".
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (First appearance) (Appears in flashback(s))
Notes and references