Hector Vanity, Ravenclaw, had two lovely cousins who generally got along splendidly. So on one fine day Father invited them both to Mirrorstone Court, so that Hector might have some amiable feminine companionship for the week; and, more importantly, so that Hector might finally choose between them. For a young male pure-blood with a pretty feminine cousin was a very lucky young man indeed, but Hector was rather too lucky. He had put off for a very long time selecting which one cousin was to shed her maiden name (Vanity) and take up his own vaunted patronymic (Vanity).
But the very thought of choosing made Hector queasy. On the one hand, there was adorable, forthright Ariella, Beater for Gryffindor, Dueling club champion, clear-eyed and direct and terribly committed to her chosen causes. Oh, Father said, Shame about the company she keeps, but imagine Ariella on your arm, making charitable pledges to sad little groups like the werewolves and the house-elves and so on. How wonderful we Vanitys would look!
And then on the other hand there was pretty, canny Delinda, Beater for the Slytherin team, illustrious Hogwarts prefect, charming and quick-witted and very much devoted to the family name. Oh, Father said, It certainly won’t endear us to the non-traditional bunch, but such a terrific and sensible choice she would be! Picture Delinda by your side, directing for years to come the development of pure young Vanity minds!
And so it was with terror that Hector beheld, on the morning after their arrival, Ariella and Delinda taking the matter into their own hands.
"It will go to Gryffindor!" Ariella said forcefully, tugging the rope hard enough to make lesser cousins stumble.
But clever Delinda was evenly supporting her weight with her legs spread out, and did not stumble. “Hang Gryffindor!” she cried, “You appalling little turncoat! You don’t care a shrivelfig for family, do you?”
And Hector, who was more intelligent than brave, more quick-thinking than ambitious, edged his way out of the room and ran to the pantry, where he sat among the jellied and canned things the elves were always making, and wondered, despairingly, why one had to choose between Ariella on the one hand, and Delinda on the other. Who had constructed such a system? It seemed frightfully silly. And, more importantly, why was there no hand available for lovely, solid Rollo MacMillan, Beater for the Hufflepuff team, no one of consequence otherwise, and unlikely to care much about the future of the Vanity family?
Before long, Ariella and Delinda found him and dragged him out of the cupboard.
"Now, Hector," Ariella said, pulling him upright and shaking him firmly, "Delinda and I have something we need you to decide for us."
"I won’t," Hector said miserably, "I can’t. I think this family is dreadful and self-absorbed, and one can’t — can’t pursue one’s dreams, can’t be one’s true self when you all are about. I refuse to choose between you! I don’t want either of you!"
Ariella abruptly let go of him, causing Hector to slide to the floor.
"What in Salazar’s silken stockings is he talking about?" Delinda said, peering down at her rather pathetic cousin.
“Aren’t I supposed to choose a wife?” Hector said sadly.
"You?" Ariella said, "Choose a wife?”
"Why on earth would anyone force you to do that?" said Delinda, "I should hope they know you better."
"No, Hector," said Ariella, "It’s Glenda Chittock’s latest poll. For Quidditch Player Of The Century. Del and I were planning to cast our votes, and then also your vote—"
"We were sure you wouldn’t mind, since all you know about Quidditch is wrapped up in Rollo MacMillan’s biceps," Delinda said snidely.
"Well, I think you should vote for Ginny Weasley, as she’s a hero—”
“You should vote for Aunt Emma, as she’s family—”
"Oh," Hector said, relieved. "Um, Oliver Wood. Cast my vote for Oliver Wood."
His cousins looked down at him, disgusted.
"Typical," muttered Ariella.
"Hector only ever thinks about himself," said Delinda.