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12 Post-Potter Revelations J.K. Rowling Has Shared

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Any proper Harry Potter fan will insist that the series didn’t truly end with the release of the seventh and final book in July 2007, nor did it end with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 in theatres in July 2011. There’s no more obvious testament to the wizarding world’s enduring legacy than J.K. Rowling herself, the author who has so much left to give to fans who are always eager to hear more. She continues to release new material via the Pottermore website and has yet to quash rumors of a forthcoming authoritative Harry Potter encyclopedia (though she hesitates to use the e-word).

But some of Rowling's most surprising insights about the fates of Harry and friends have come straight from her own mouth in various interviews given since Deathly Hallows closed the book on their stories. Here are some of the most essential insights from those interviews—though if the past few years are any indication, they won’t be the last. Note: If you haven't read all the books or seen all the movies, spoilers abound!

1. Dumbledore was gay

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When a fan got the chance to ask Rowling whether beloved headmaster Dumbledore, with his twinkling blue eyes, had ever been in love, the answer must have been wildly unexpected: not only had Rowling “always thought” of Dumbledore as gay, but his one great love had been his former best friend and Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, whom he ultimately defeated in a duel the likes of which were never surpassed by any two wizards since. By Rowling’s account, Dumbledore’s infatuation with Grindelwald may have blinded him to the danger which his plans of benevolent-but-totalitarian wizarding domination posed to the entire magical world. Rowling never explicitly states whether or not Dumbledore’s affections were ever returned, but either way, there’s a wrenching sense of tragedy in Dumbledore’s love life that never was.

2. Ron and Hermione’s relationship may have been a mistake

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In an interview with Emma Watson, otherwise known as the real-life Hermione Granger, Rowling dropped one of the biggest bombshells of her career when she confessed her sense that pairing off Ron and Hermione had been a mistake. She admits that at the time, she had pushed a Ron/Hermione relationship for “very personal reasons” and as a form of “wish fulfillment” in service of her original ideas of where the books would go, not because the two were a particularly “credible” couple; in retrospect, she thinks it would have made sense for Hermione to marry Harry instead.

Rowling’s most recent statement contradicted not only her published work, but her previous interviews, in which she claimed that Harry and Ginny were true “soul mates,” whereas Ron and Hermione operated on an opposites-attract level: “[They] are drawn to each other because they balance each other out. Hermione's got the sensitivity and maturity that's been left out of Ron, and Ron loosens up Hermione a bit, gets her to have some fun. They love each other and they bicker a bit, but they enjoy bickering, so we shouldn't worry about it”—and yet she has now joked (unless she wasn’t joking) that Ron and Hermione would have needed to seek relationship counseling. Fans predictably erupted at what they saw as Rowling’s unwanted editorializing on books long gone to print, though early fans of a Harry/Hermione pairing were quietly vindicated; either way, the books have been written, and there’s always fanfiction for all the rest.

3. Tonks and Lupin almost lived, but Ron and Arthur Weasley almost died

Authors are allowed to change their minds, but when it comes to matters of a character’s life or death, there’s a lot to consider. It seems inconceivable now, but Rowling admits that about halfway through the series, when she “wasn’t in a very happy place” in her own life, she considered going back on her previous commitment to herself to keep the Golden Trio alive, and almost killed off Ron Weasley. In retrospect, she now believes that she wouldn’t really have been able to do it, but at the time, she entertained the notion “out of sheer spite.” Luckily for Ron, Rowling’s fit of pique passed, and he was spared.

Arthur Weasley’s near-death was a subject of more serious deliberation: Rowling felt uncomfortable with the idea that the entire Weasley clan should survive (since purely on a statistical basis, that would have been hugely unrealistic), and she thought Mr. Weasley might be the one to go. She granted him a reprieve when she realized what a huge blow such a loss would deal not only to Harry, in whose life Mr. Weasley played the most stable father figure, but to Ron. As half an orphan—half of what Harry had been all his life—he would have lost his humor, and Rowling decided that she needed to keep Ron “intact,” thereby sparing Mr. Weasley. The honor of being the Weasley to die in battle therefore fell to Fred: Of the two twins, Rowling had always written George as the more sensitive one, and Fred as “the funnier, but also the crueler of the two.” Hoping to circumvent fans’ expectations that George, the more passive of the pair, should be the obvious choice to die, Rowling decreed that Fred had to go.

Rowling never intended for Lupin or Tonks to die in battle. Although she wanted to spare Ron the loss of a father, she did later decide that she needed a character to lose both parents as a means of bringing the orphan story full circle. Teddy Lupin, like both Harry and Neville, grows up without a mother or father, instead entrusted to the care of relatives; yet Rowling intended to show that unlike the two other boys who grew up without a traditional nuclear family, Teddy was able to grow up with loving caregivers in a world that, after Voldemort’s fall, was “a better place.” She also emphasizes that Teddy benefits from an even better godfather than Sirius: Harry becomes a true father figure to Lupin’s son, and despite his orphanhood, Teddy turns out okay.

4. Harry and Voldemort are blood relatives

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Clever fans may have sussed this out on their own simply by connecting some of the dots regarding ownership of two of the three Deathly Hallows, family heirlooms that were passed down from descendant to descendant before one reached Harry Potter and another, Lord Voldemort. When Albus Dumbledore gifted the Cloak of Invisibility to Harry on his first Christmas at Hogwarts, he had merely been keeping it safe on behalf of Harry’s father James, a direct descendant of Ignotus Peverell, its original owner and one of the “Three Brothers” whose story is fictionalized in an old wizarding fairy tale. The Resurrection Stone, having been set into a ring, passed similarly between generations from Cadmus Peverell to the Gaunt family and eventually to final surviving patriarch Marvolo Gaunt, Tom Riddle, Jr.’s maternal grandfather. When Marvolo died, his son Morfin inherited the ring, and it was from him that Lord Voldemort-to-be claimed the heirloom he believed to be his birthright. From there, it seems reasonable to assume that Harry and Voldemort might share a common ancestor through their pureblood connections, and Rowling confirmed that they are in fact distantly related through the Peverells. Then again, with the insular nature of wizarding lineage, Rowling notes, “nearly all wizarding families are related if you trace them back through the centuries.”

5. Harry and Dudley made amends

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The two cousins parted uneasily after a childhood of fearing, tormenting, and misunderstanding one another, with “I don’t think you’re a waste of space” remaining the kindest words Dudley ever spoke to Harry, yet in that brief instance offering some hope that the two might someday reconcile. Though Rowling sadly quashed the notion of Dudley appearing at King’s Cross in the Epilogue beside his own wizarding child, citing a conviction that “any latent wizarding genes would never survive contact with Uncle Vernon’s DNA,” she does say that he remains on “Christmas card terms” with Harry, who in turn makes an effort to drop in to see his cousin when in his neighborhood. Though their children manage to play together, Harry and Dudley merely “sit in silence” as they watch; some things never change.

6. Snape was remembered as Headmaster

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In the triumphant final scene after Voldemort’s defeat, Harry enters the Headmaster’s office to rousing applause from the moving portraits of Hogwarts’s former Headmasters and Headmistresses, but one figure is conspicuously absent: Severus Snape. Having abandoned his duties prior to dying, Snape would not have been considered worthy to take his place among the other, more revered Hogwarts heads. However, Rowling believes that Harry would later have insisted on Snape’s portrait being hung as deserved.

7. Neville’s parents never recover

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As if the slew of heartbreaking deaths during the Final Battle weren’t enough cause for fans to curse Rowling’s unwillingness to write too many happy endings, she also shared in an interview that Frank and Alice Longbottom never surfaced from their torture-induced madness. The long-time residents of St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, placed in the incurable wing for continuing palliative treatment after overexposure to the Cruciatus Curse by Bellatrix Lestrange and her fellow Death Eaters, remained forever unaware of their son’s heroic role in avenging their fates.

8. Harry and Ron stayed Hogwarts dropouts

After so many incidences of Harry and Ron shamelessly copying Hermione’s notes and each other’s homework, it wasn’t hard to see this one coming: Only Hermione bothered to go back and finish her final year of education after Voldemort so rudely interrupted everyone’s studies. She took her N.E.W.T.s—presumably scoring top marks across the board—and would have been the only one of the trio to participate in the Hogwarts graduation tradition of riding the boats back across the lake, reversing the process by which she and her fellow first-years arrived.

9. The Golden Trio became high-ranking government employees

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Luckily, Harry and Ron’s lack of formal qualifications didn’t stop them from realizing their dream of becoming Aurors, officers of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement’s elite branch dedicated to combating the use of the Dark Arts. At age 17, Harry became the youngest Auror ever employed by the Ministry of Magic, and ascended to a position as head of the department just nine years later, under his friend and fellow Order of the Phoenix member Kingsley Shacklebolt as Minister for Magic. Hermione took a more conventional path through the Ministry ranks: Starting off in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, she continued her crusade for house elves’ rights before transferring to a position high within the Department of Magical Law Enforcement to help scrub wizarding law of its antiquated pureblood prejudices. Together, Kingsley and the Trio spearheaded a total reform of the Ministry from its old, corrupt ways. They were joined by Percy Weasley, whose change of heart suited him well as an official in the new Ministry.

10. Neville earned a reputation for being cool

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Awkward, fumbling Neville Longbottom has always had defenders, since the day he valiantly stood up to his own friends and begged them not to get into any more trouble (clearly not understanding what he’d gotten himself into by befriending Harry, Ron, and Hermione). He proved his mettle time and again, particularly as a member of both the original and reunited Dumbledore’s army, and not least when he beheaded Nagini with Godric Gryffindor’s own sword. After the Battle of Hogwarts, no one could deny that Neville was a great wizard in his own right, despite all those melted cauldrons in his youth. He earned his grandmother’s respect and a position as the new Hogwarts Herbology professor. Upon marrying Hannah Abbott, the new landlady at The Leaky Cauldron, he also gained some cachet with his students: they would’ve found it “very cool,” according to Rowling, that he lived above the pub.

11. Harry got a sweet new ride

Harry Potter Wikia

Though Sirius Black’s motorbike succumbed to damage during the mid-air battle between the Death Eaters and the Order of the Phoenix trying to transport Harry to safety, its broken bits found safe refuge in Arthur Weasley’s backyard tinkering shed. Mr. Weasley’s fascination with fixing all things magic and Muggle served him well, and he finally found time after the Second Wizarding War to repair the bike and return it to Harry.

12. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were immortalized on Chocolate Frog cards

Harry Potter Wikia

The three friends were all honored for their efforts in destroying Voldemort’s Horcruxes and defeating “the most dangerous dark wizard of all time” with commemorative Chocolate Frog cards, to be distributed alongside the sweets as collectible items. Like Albus Dumbledore, Ron Weasley considered this the greatest achievement of his life.

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The Charming English Fishing Village That Inspired Dracula
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Whitby as seen from the top of the 199 Steps
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The train departed King's Cross at 10:25 a.m. on July 29, 1890. Bram Stoker settled wearily into the carriage for the six-hour journey to Whitby, the fashionable and remote seaside village in North Yorkshire. The sooty sprawl of London gave way to green grids of farmland and pasture, and then windswept moors blanketed in heather and wild roses.

Stoker needed this holiday. The 42-year-old manager of London's Lyceum Theatre had just finished an exhausting national tour with his employer, the celebrated but demanding actor Henry Irving. The unrelenting task of running the business side of Irving's many theatrical enterprises for the past decade had left Stoker with little time for himself. When the curtains fell at the end of each night's performance, he may have felt that the energy had been sucked out of him.

Now he looked forward to a three-week getaway where he would have time to think about his next novel, a supernatural tale that harnessed the sources of Victorian anxiety: immigration and technology, gender roles and religion. In ways he didn't foresee, the small fishing port of Whitby would plant the seeds for a vampire novel that would terrify the world. Stoker started out on an innocent and much-deserved vacation, but ended up creating Dracula.

A photo of Bram Stoker
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As Stoker emerged from the train station in Whitby, the sounds and smell of the sea would have restored him after the long trip. He loaded his trunk into a horse-drawn cab for the journey up the West Cliff, where new vacation apartments and hotels served the crowds of holidaymakers. He checked into a flat at 6 Royal Crescent, a half-circle of elegant Georgian-style townhomes that faced the ocean.

He often felt invigorated by the seashore: "He's finally on a holiday, away from the hustle and bustle of London, the Lyceum Theatre, and Henry Irving's dominance over him," Dacre Stoker, a novelist and the author's great-grandnephew, tells Mental Floss. "The ocean and the seaside play into Bram's life, and, I believe, in stimulating his imagination."

Stoker's wife Florence and their 10-year-old son Noel would join him the following week. Now was his chance to explore Whitby on his own.

The East Cliff with Tate Hill Pier in the foreground
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"A curious blend of old and new it is," wrote a travel correspondent for the Leeds Mercury. The River Esk divided the town into two steep halves known as the West and East Cliffs. Down a tangle of paths from the brow of the West Cliff, Stoker found himself on the town's famed beach, where people gathered to watch the many vessels at sea or walked along the gentle surf. At the end of the beach was the Saloon, the nucleus of Whitby's social whirl.

"The enterprising manager engages the best musical and dramatic talent procurable, whilst on the promenade a selected band of professional musicians gives performances daily," wrote Horne's Guide to Whitby. Holidaymakers could purchase a day pass to the Saloon and enjoy afternoon tea, tennis, and endless people-watching.

Next to the Saloon, the West Pier featured a long promenade parallel to the river and a three-story building containing public baths, a museum with a collection of local fossils, and a subscription library. Shops selling fish and chips, ice cream, and Whitby rock lined the winding streets. Visitors could watch all kinds of fishing vessels discharging their daily catch, and even hop aboard a boat for a night's "herringing" with local fishermen.

Whitby's East Cliff had a more mysterious atmosphere. Across the town's single bridge, tightly packed medieval cottages and jet factories leaned over the narrow cobbled streets, "rising one above another from the water side in the most irregular, drunken sort of arrangement conceivable," the Leeds Mercury reported.

Above the ancient Tate Hill Pier, a stone stairway of 199 steps (which pallbearers used when they carried coffins) led up the cliff to St. Mary's parish church and its graveyard full of weathered headstones. Towering over the whole scene—and visible from nearly any spot in town—were the ruins of Whitby Abbey, a 13th-century pile of Gothic arches that had been built upon the remains of a 7th-century monastery.

"I think [Stoker] was struck by the setting. He's thinking, 'This is perfect. I have the ships coming in, I've got the abbey, a churchyard, a graveyard'," Dacre Stoker says. "Maybe it was by chance, but I think it just became that perfect scene."

Whitby Abbey
Whitby Abbey
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In Dracula, chapters six through eight kick the narrative into frightening action. By then, real estate agent Jonathan Harker has traveled to Transylvania to negotiate Dracula's purchase of a London property and become the vampire's prisoner. His fiancée Mina Murray, her friend Lucy Westenra, and Lucy's mother have traveled to Whitby for a relaxing holiday, but Mina remains troubled by the lack of letters from Jonathan. She confides her worries and records the strange scenes she witnesses in her journal.

On the afternoon of his arrival, according to a modern account compiled by historians at the Whitby Museum, Stoker climbed the 199 Steps to St. Mary's churchyard and found a bench in the southwest corner. The view made a deep impression on Stoker, and he took note of the river and harbor, the abbey's "noble ruin," the houses "piled up one over the other anyhow." In his novel, Mina arrives in late July on the same train as Stoker, mounts the 199 Steps, and echoes his thoughts:

"This is to my mind the nicest spot in Whitby, for it lies right over the town, and has a full view of the harbor ... It descends so steeply over the harbor that part of the bank has fallen away, and some of the graves have been destroyed. In one place part of the stonework of the graves stretches out over the sandy pathway far below. There are walks, with seats beside them, through the churchyard; and people go and sit there all day long looking at the beautiful view and enjoying the breeze. I shall come and sit here very often myself and work."

The churchyard gave Stoker a number of literary ideas. The following day, Stoker chatted there with three leathery old Greenland fisherman who likely spoke in a distinct Yorkshire dialect. They told Stoker a bit of mariner's lore: If a ship's crew heard bells at sea, an apparition of a lady would appear in one of the abbey's windows. "Then things is all wore out," one of the sailors warned.

Stoker ambled between the headstones that sprouted from the thick carpet of grass. Though most of the markers' names and dates had been erased by the wind, he copied almost 100 into his notes. Stoker used one of them, Swales, as the name of the fisherman with a face that is "all gnarled and twisted like the bark of an old tree," who begins talking with Mina in the churchyard. Mina asks him about the legend of the lady appearing in the abbey window, but Swales says it's all foolishness—stories of "boh-ghosts an' barguests an' bogles" that are only fit to scare children.

St. Mary's churchyard
St. Mary's churchyard, which Mina calls "the nicest spot in Whitby."
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For the first few days in August, Stoker was occupied by the summer's social calendar. He likely enjoyed dinner with friends arriving from London, and went to church on Sunday morning. On the 5th, Stoker's wife and son joined him at 6 Royal Crescent. The next several days may have been spent at the Saloon, promenading on the pier, and making social calls, as it was the custom for newly arrived visitors to visit with acquaintances in town.

But Whitby's infamous weather had the ability to turn a sunny day somber in an instant. August 11 was a "grey day," Stoker noted, "horizon lost in grey mist, all vastness, clouds piled up and a 'brool' over the sea." With Florence and Noel perhaps staying indoors, Stoker set off for the East Cliff again and chatted with a Coast Guard boatman named William Petherick. "Told me of various wrecks," Stoker jotted. During one furious gale, a "ship got into harbor, never knew how, all hands were below praying."

The ship was the Dmitry, a 120-ton schooner that had left the Russian port of Narva with a ballast of silver sand. The ship encountered a fierce storm as it neared Whitby on October 24, 1885, and aimed for the harbor.

"The 'Russian' got in but became a wreck during the night," according to a copy of the Coast Guard's log, which Petherick delivered to Stoker. The crew survived. In a picture taken by local photographer Frank Meadow Sutcliffe just a few days after the storm, the Dmitry is shown beached near Tate Hill Pier with its masts lying in the sand.

'The Wreck of the Dmitry' (1885), by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe
The Wreck of the Dmitry (1885), by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe
Courtesy of the Sutcliffe Gallery

Petherick's account gave Stoker the means for his vampire's arrival in England, the moment when the mysterious East disrupts the order of the West. Mina pastes a local newspaper article describing a sudden and ferocious storm that hurled Dracula's ship, the Demeter from Varna, against Tate Hill Pier. The Coast Guard discovered the crew had vanished and the captain was dead. Just then, "an immense dog sprang up on deck and … making straight for the steep cliff … it disappeared in the darkness, which seemed intensified just beyond the focus of the searchlight," the article in Mina's journal reads. The dog was never seen again, but townsfolk did find a dead mastiff that had been attacked by another large beast.

Mina describes the funeral for the Demeter's captain, which Stoker based on scenes from an annual celebration he watched on August 15 called the Water Fete. In reality, thousands of cheerful spectators lined the quays as a local band and choir performed popular songs and a parade of gaily decorated boats sailed up the river, with banners fluttering merrily in the breeze, according to the Whitby Gazette's report. But through Mina, Stoker transformed the scene into a memorial:

"Every boat in the harbor seemed to be there, and the coffin was carried by captains all the way from Tate Hill Pier up to the churchyard. Lucy came with me, and we went early to our old seat, whilst the cortege of boats went up the river to the Viaduct and came down again. We had a lovely view, and saw the procession nearly all the way."

The final week of Stoker's holiday elicited some of the most important details in Dracula. On August 19, he bought day passes to Whitby's museum library and the subscription library. In the museum's reading room, Stoker wrote down 168 words in the Yorkshire dialect and their English meanings from F.K. Robinson's A Glossary of Words Used in the Neighborhood of Whitby, which later formed the bulk of Mr. Swales's vocabulary in his chats with Mina.

One of the words was "barguest," a term for a "terrifying apparition," which also refers specifically to a "large black dog with flaming eyes as big as saucers" in Yorkshire folklore, whose "vocation appears to have been that of a presage of death," according to an account from 1879.

"I do think Stoker meant for that connection," John Edgar Browning, visiting lecturer at the Georgia Institute of Technology and expert in horror and the gothic, tells Mental Floss. "Moreover, he probably would have meant for the people of Whitby in the novel to make the connection, since it was they who perceived Dracula's form as a large black dog."

Downstairs, Stoker checked out books on Eastern European culture and folklore, clearly with the aim of fleshing out the origins of his vampire: Curious Myths of the Middle Ages, a travelogue titled On the Track of the Crescent, and most importantly, William Wilkinson's An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldovia: with Various Observations Relating to Them.

The library building where Stoker discovered Dracula
The library building where Stoker discovered Dracula
Courtesy of Dacre Stoker

From the latter book, Stoker wrote in his notes, "P. 19. DRACULA in Wallachian language means DEVIL. Wallachians were accustomed to give it as a surname to any person who rendered himself conspicuous by courage, cruel actions, or cunning."

The Wilkinson book gave Stoker not just the geographical origin and nationality for his character, but also his all-important name, redolent of mystery and malice. "The moment Stoker happened upon the name of 'Dracula' in Whitby—a name Stoker scribbled over and over on the same page on which he crossed through [the vampire's original name] 'Count Wampyr,' as if he were savoring the word's three evil syllables—the notes picked up tremendously," Browning says.

By the time Stoker and his family returned to London around August 23, he had developed his idea from a mere outline to a fully fledged villain with a sinister name and unforgettable fictional debut.

"The modernization of the vampire myth that we see in Dracula—and that many contemporary reviewers commented upon—may not have happened, at least to the same degree, without Stoker's visit to Whitby," Browning says. "Whitby was a major catalyst, the contemporary Gothic 'glue', as it were, for what would eventually become the most famous vampire novel ever written."

Bram Stoker visited Whitby only once in his life, but the seaside village made an indelible mark on his imagination. When he finally wrote the scenes as they appear in Dracula, "He placed all of these events in real time, in real places, with real names of people he pulled off gravestones. That's what set the story apart," Dacre Stoker says. "That's why readers were scared to death—because there is that potential, just for a moment, that maybe this story is real."

Additional source: Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition, annotated and transcribed by Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Elizabeth Miller

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This Harry Potter Candle Melts to Reveal Your Hogwarts House—and Smells Amazing
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As it gets darker and colder outside, the thought of lighting a candle in your room and curling up with a good book becomes more appealing. A sorting hat candle from the Muggle Library Candles Etsy store makes the perfect companion to whatever Harry Potter book you happen to be re-reading for the hundredth time this season. According to the Cleveland news outlet WKYC, the candle slowly reveals your Hogwarts house as it burns.

From the outside, the item looks like a normal white candle. But when lit, the outer layer of plain wax melts away, allowing the colorful interior to poke through. The candles come in one of four concealed colors: red for Gryffindor, blue for Ravenclaw, yellow for Hufflepuff, and green for Slytherin. The only way to know which house you’re destined to match with is by purchasing a candle and putting it to use. According to the label, the scent evokes “excitement, fear, and nervousness.” The smell can also be described as lemon with sandalwood, vanilla, and patchouli.

Due to its viral popularity, the Fort Worth, Texas-based Etsy store has put all orders on hold while working to get its current batch of shipments out to customers. You can follow Muggle Library Candles on Instagram for updates on the sorting candle, as well as other Harry Potter-themed candles in their repertoire, like parseltongue and free elf.

[h/t WKYC]

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