Warnings: AU

When the grandfather clock in the sitting room chimed nine o'clock, Lily began to worry. Next to her on the kitchen counter sat a plate full of food, charmed to keep warm. Breakfast had ended twenty minutes ago—James, Sirius, Remus, and Peter having already excused themselves to James' study—and Harry was yet to be seen.

It was such a big day for him. Today he would leave her nest for his first year at Hogwarts, and Lily couldn't help but wipe the tears from her eyes at the thought of it. She'd raised her little boy day in and day out for eleven years now; how would he get along without her? More importantly, how could she ever possibly get along without him. Lily knew she shouldn't be crying over it, but letting go was difficult. However, beneath her motherly concerns and her own sadness, she couldn't have been more excited for her little boy.

His absence this morning concerned her though. She thought he'd be waking her up at six in the morning for breakfast so they could get an early start. Harry was very much James all over again in that regard—when he was excited, it showed.

Hearing footsteps walking towards the kitchen, Lily smiled and was fully prepared to greet Harry. However, she turned to find James instead, looking thoroughly confused.

"Harry hasn't come down for breakfast yet?"

She shook her head. "I haven't seen him since I went to wake him this morning."

"At this rate, we're not going to have time for the passing of the wand ceremony."

Lily rolled her eyes. James and Sirius had been carrying on about this little "ceremony" of theirs since the beginning of summer. There was no wand, of course. She'd gathered that much. And while no one—not even Remus—would tell her what they had planned for Harry this morning, Lily had a sneaking suspicion that it had something to do with that map of theirs.

"I told you, James, you're not sending that map to school with him. You'd be encouraging rule breaking if you did."

James beamed and approached her, slipping his arms around her waist. "But that's the point, love. He's the first of our progeny—"

"Our only progeny," she corrected.

"No, no, Marauder progeny. He'll be our first to go, and so he'll have to set a proper example."

Honestly, Lily wondered why James felt the need to live vicariously through Harry sometimes. Harry was his own person, for God's sake—though he was very much James Potter's son. And Lily probably would have given James a thorough scolding if it hadn't been for the fact that he was an amazing father to Harry.

Ever since the moment they found out they were pregnant with Harry, James was in awe of their son. Lily expected that to morph into something different in time, something that wasn't quite awe but more parental pride. It hadn't though. Everything that Harry did amazed James. In fact, her husband's world revolved around their son. Lily's only regret was that she'd never managed to conceive another child with James after the war.

James kissed her forehead. "Let me give him the map, Lil. Please. You know how much he loves it."

She had a difficult enough time denying Harry anything that would make him happy, but Lily found it nearly impossible to deny both father and son something that would bring them such joy.

"Alright. But not the cloak."

"Lily," he pleaded.

"Oh honestly, you would give him the moon if you could," she sighed.

She felt him smile into her hair. "If he wanted it badly enough, I'd find a way."

"He can have the cloak on his seventeenth," Lily conceded. "But not a moment before, understand?"

Another—lighter—pair of footsteps approached, and this time Harry popped into the kitchen, an unreadable expression on his face. James untangled himself from her, a wide smile slipping on his lips, and he pulled Harry into a fierce hug.

"Harry, my boy! Big day today. Are you excited?"

Lily could tell that Harry wasn't as excited about it as James would like to think. Lily saw the uneasiness in his eyes and frowned.

"Harry, love, what's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong with him, Lily. Look at him," James said, before looking down at Harry still wrapped in one arm. "Oh. Something is wrong. Tell us what's on your mind, mate."

James pulled out a chair for Harry to sit on, and then knelt down next to him after he did. Lily noticed that look in her husband's eyes—the one that said he needed to quash any insecurities that Harry might have. She walked over to the table and took the seat next to Harry, running her fingers through his unruly hair.

"What if I'm not in Gryffindor?" he asked, both softly and nervously. "What if I'm in Hufflepuff or something?"

Harry seemed to direct his question more towards his father than to her, and Lily knew why. James had gone on and on for years about what a fantastic Gryffindor Harry would make. Harry's nursery had been decked out in everything red and gold, and his bedroom after he outgrew that. His scarves were in Gryffindor colors as were his blankets, and their son even slept in one of James' old Quidditch jerseys. Harry knew his father bled Gryffindor red and gold, and she realized that Harry worried about what would happen if he didn't.

Lily watched James carefully. She understood just how much it would mean to James if Harry was sorted into their old house. She could only hope that he knew Harry well enough to guess what was going through their boy's mind and be tactful in his answer.

"Harry," James began, placing an hand on his son's shoulder, "if you're sorted into Hufflepuff, I'll have this house charmed black and yellow by the time you get home for the Christmas holiday."

"Really, Dad?"

"You're my son, Harry. I'd be proud of you even if you were sorted into Slytherin."

Even when she thought that it was impossible to love James more, Lily did. His words rang true to her. James didn't care where Harry was sorted; he would be blindly devoted to their son regardless. And if Harry was placed in any of the other houses tonight, James would be in Diagon Alley tomorrow morning to buy the appropriately colored scarf and have a photo of him wearing it sent off to Harry by tomorrow night—a testament to the lengths James would go to show Harry how much he loved him unconditionally.