(What happens when the cast of Final Fantasy VII come to Hogwarts? Read on to find out! Cloud, Tifa, Aerith, Vincent, Yuffie, Cid and Barret are first-years starting at the school for witches and wizards.

This story roughly follows the events of Philosopher's Stone, but with alterations as I see fit. Cloud's PoV, rated for language.

Disclaimer: I don't own either the FF characters or the HP characters. Some dialogue is quoted directly from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. That's owned by JK Rowling.)

Cloud could hardly believe he was here at last. His classmates-to-be gasped at the sight of the huge castle, the sound almost drowned out by the soft ripples of the lake. Cloud simply gazed at it in wonder: the turrets, the high walls, the sweeping grandness of it all. Hogwarts. His mother had told him about the school but this was the first time he had seen it, looming blackly in the night.

Maybe he would make friends here.

Mum said he would. Back in Nibelheim, he had never fitted in. He recalled with a kind of painful ache how much he had wanted to play with the Muggle children. And yet at the same time, he had always felt that he was different. Special. Because he had magic. But here, at Hogwarts, he would be with children like him.

The boats bumped gently ashore. Cloud scrambled out and followed the giant man up to the castle with the rest of the first-years. He was scary-looking, Cloud thought with a shiver. Huge, with a great black beard and tangled hair that hid most of his face. The giant man banged on the huge door leading into the castle.

A stern-looking witch answered it.

"The firs'-years, Professor McGonagall," said the giant man.

"Thank-you, Hagrid," answered the witch. "I will take them from here."

Trembling, Cloud followed everyone inside. She led them into a small, dimly lit chamber. He felt his stomach wrench with nervous anticipation.

Professor McGonagall started to tell them about the Sorting. Cloud remembered his mother's explanations of the four houses: Slytherin, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. He wondered which one he would end up in.

"The Sorting Ceremony will take place in a few minutes in front of the rest of the school. I suggest you all smarten yourselves up as much as you can while you are waiting."

Cloud ran a hand through his spiky blond hair. He glanced around at the other students. They all looked nervous.

"I will return when we are ready for you," Professor McGonagall continued. "Please wait quietly."

She left.

Immediately, some of the students started talking. A bushy-haired girl behind him was muttering very fast under her breath. Feeling slightly alarmed, Cloud backed away. He turned around, looking for a familiar face. Had he seen any of them on the train? He had been too shy to talk to anyone. Instead, he had spent the whole journey in a compartment by himself. But maybe they had all been making friends then, and he was too late.

Suddenly, Cloud's eyes alighted on a familiar face. A very familiar face. But it couldn't be...

"Tifa?" He said her name involuntarily, and blushed as her eyes flicked over to him.

"Cloud!" She walked over to him, beaming, while Cloud thought of all the things he could say to her. They flashed through his mind too quickly for him to grasp any of them. He just looked at her stupidly.

"Cloud, I can't believe it's really you!" said Tifa. "I didn't know you were a wizard. When did you find out?"

Cloud opened and shut his mouth a couple of times before he managed to blurt something out. "I dunno, when I was about five, I think..." His mind was still reeling from the fact that Tifa was a witch. Tifa... the pretty, popular Muggle girl who lived in his village.

"Is your mother a witch too?"

Cloud nodded.

Tifa pressed her finger to her mouth and chewed the nail thoughtfully. "I never knew... Until I got the letter from Hogwarts, I didn't know that I could do magic either. This place... is amazing, isn't it? Do you know all about it?"

Cloud felt his confidence return. Tifa was asking him about Hogwarts! She wasn't talking down to him, her stupid friends weren't there to laugh at him, and for once she was paying him attention. He realised that she must be nervous, coming to a school of magic and knowing almost nothing about it.

"Yeah, I know a few things," he said casually.

"What's this Sorting that Professor McGonagall mentioned?" Tifa looked around, her long hair swishing behind her. "I heard someone say that it's some kind of test... but I don't know how to do any magic yet."

"Don't worry," Cloud assured her. "All that happens is that your house gets chosen. You don't really have to do anything."

Tifa smiled. "Thanks, Cloud. I feel better now. Hey, do you think we'll be in the same house?"

"I don't know." But inside, he hoped they would be.

"Oh, look, she's back," said Tifa. The two of them watched the stern-looking witch hurry over to them.

"Move along now," she snapped. "The Sorting Ceremony's about to start."

The nervous feeling in Cloud's stomach heightened as he walked through the Entrance Hall and into the Great Hall. Thousands of candles floated above the tables. A sea of students in black robes watched the line of first-years. They stopped. He glanced at Tifa standing next to him and she smiled. He felt his muscles loosen slightly.

Then the Sorting Hat was brought out. Cloud stared at it. He hadn't expected it to be so torn and dirty. His mother wouldn't have let it in the house. The brim of the Hat lifted and it began singing. It sang of the four Houses. I remember now, Cloud thought. If you're brave, you're supposed to be in Gryffindor. If you're clever, you go in Ravenclaw. Slytherins are ambitious and crafty, and Hufflepuffs are supposed to be loyal and hard-working. I don't deserve to be in any of them, he thought miserably. But I wish I could be brave...

The Hat's song finished and the Sorting began.

"Abbott, Hannah."

A girl stumbled forward out of the line and placed the Sorting Hat on her head. For a moment, as she sat on the stool, nothing happened, but then the Sorting Hat shouted "Hufflepuff!" and a chorus of cheers from the table on the right welcomed her.

Cloud watched as the line slowly dwindled. Tifa would be Sorted before him...

Terry Boot became the first Ravenclaw and then Lavender Brown became the first Gryffindor. The students cheered every new arrival. Cloud gazed up at the ceiling, which was bewitched to look like the sky outside. It was dark and cloudy.

"Gainsborough, Aerith."

A girl with long brown hair tied back with a pink ribbon stepped forward. Cloud caught a glimpse of startling emerald eyes. She was very pretty, and she moved with serene grace. When she put on the Sorting Hat, she tilted her head to one side. It looked as though the Hat was considering.

"Ravenclaw!"

The Ravenclaws applauded as the girl, smiling shyly, walked over to sit with them.

"Highwind, Cid."

A boy with sandy hair gave a lop-sided grin and hurried over to the Hat. It took longer for the Hat to make its decision this time; the boy waited for nearly a minute before it spoke.

"Gryffindor!"

As "Kisaragi, Yuffie" became a Slytherin, Cloud wondered if it was really true that Slytherins were more likely to become Dark wizards.

"Lockhart, Tifa!"

It was Tifa's turn. She gave his hand a reassuring squeeze before going to try the Hat on. Cloud waited, his insides squirming with anticipation.

"Ravenclaw!"

Tifa joined the Ravenclaws at their table. Maybe I'll be a Ravenclaw too, thought Cloud hopefully. He barely had time to notice "Malfoy, Draco" become a Slytherin; the Hat made an instant decision.

Cloud craned his head, trying to spot Tifa who had vanished somewhere among the other Ravenclaws. But then he heard a name he knew...

"Potter, Harry."

Murmurs and whispers filled the hall as a short, black-haired boy wearing glasses stumbled forward to try on the Hat.

"So that's him," Cloud heard a boy nearby him mutter. He stared at the boy wearing the Sorting Hat. Yes, that was him. The famous Harry Potter. And he's in my year! He might even be in my house, Cloud thought. Everyone knew the story, of course. Cloud only wished that he could have done something like that. Harry had defeated He Who Must Not Be Named when he was only a baby. Cloud watched impatiently, hoping to catch a glimpse of the boy's scar when he had been Sorted. The Hat took a long time...

"Gryffindor!" it said at last, and the Gryffindor table exploded with cheers. Of course, Harry Potter would get the most applause. He looks bemused, Cloud thought, as he watched the boy join the Gryffindor table. Perhaps he's not used to the attention.

There weren't many people left to be Sorted now. Cloud clenched his fists to stop his hands trembling. Any moment now. And then his name was called.

"Strife, Cloud."

He stepped forward, almost tripping up in his haste. He sat down on the stool and placed the Sorting Head over his head. It slipped down right in front of his eyes, and now he was staring at the dark inside of the Hat instead of the candlelit Great Hall. I hope this doesn't mess up my hair, he thought anxiously.

A little voice spoke. "Mess up your hair?" the Sorting Hat wheezed. "Goodness me, aren't you the vain one! Haha... now let me see. Hmm, well you've certainly got the drive to succeed, boy. And a need to be noticed too, that's interesting."

Cloud waited, his heart pounding. What else would the Hat see in his mind? Was he weak? A coward?

"Oh no," said the Hat. "No, there's plenty of courage here, if only you could put your mind to it. A strong protective urge too. Yes, I know where to put you. In – Gryffindor!"

The Hat shouted this last word to the whole Hall. That was it. He'd been Sorted. He was in the same House as the famous Harry Potter! But as Cloud went over to join the Gryffindor table, as the sandy-haired boy called Cid made room for him, he couldn't help feeling just a twinge of disappointment that Tifa wasn't there with him.

He waited for the last few names to be called out. Vincent Valentine became a Ravenclaw. Barret Wallace joined Gryffindor and a red-haired boy, Ronald Weasley, immediately followed him. Cloud hastily shifted aside to make room. Finally, Blaise Zabini became a Slytherin and the Sorting was over.

Cloud looked over to the teachers' table. An old man with a long white beard, which was tucked into his belt, surveyed the students through half-moon glasses. Dumbledore, he thought with a start. Albus Dumbledore was said to be the greatest wizard of the age. Both Cloud's parents had spoken highly of him, at least according to his mother. Cloud could barely remember his father.

"Before we begin our banquet," said Dumbledore, "I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!"

"Huh?" said Cloud.

"What the hell did he mean by that?" said the hulking, dark-skinned boy next to him.

But then Cloud was distracted by the appearance of the feast. The plates filled with food. His eyes couldn't take it all in at once.

"Oh YES!" crowed Cid. "Man, I could eat a whole chocobo." He shoved roast beef into his mouth.

"What's a chocobo?" asked Cloud. He picked up a mint humbug and stared at it in bemusement.

Cid looked at him. "You know, big yellow birds. You're Cloud, right? Yeah, your hair looks kind of like a chocobo."

"Chocobo-head!" said Barret. He guffawed.

Cloud blushed and ruffled his spikes. He knew the Sorting Hat had messed up his hair.

He looked across the table, and saw Harry and the red-haired boy sitting next to each other. They were talking to a rather pompous-looking ghost. He tried to make out Harry's scar, but the boy's messy black fringe hid it. Well, at least I have better hair than him, Cloud thought.

He concentrated on eating his dinner, which was delicious. It wasn't long before the plates were wiped clean and then the puddings appeared. The others were talking about their families.

"I'm half-and-half," said Cid. "Yup, my dad was a Muggle. My mum didn't tell him she was a witch until after they were married. Bastard nearly walked out on us."

Cloud decided it was about time he entered the conversation. After all, he'd be living with these boys for seven more years.

"My mother's a witch," he offered hesitantly.

Barret and Cid looked at him. Then Barret said, "Yo, who asked you, chocobo-head?"

Cloud clenched his fists. He would have liked to pick a fight with Barret, but the boy was much bigger than him and he didn't want to cause a scene at the feast.

"Hey, are you calling him names?" said a voice.

Cloud looked up. It was Harry talking, and his green eyes were narrowed at Barret.

"Chocobo-head?" interrupted the red-haired boy. He smothered a laugh. "What does that mean?"

"It's nothing, we're just messing," said Barret cheerfully. He patted Cloud on the back. "Right, spiky?"

"Uh, yeah."

"Hey, you're Ron Weasley, ain't ya?" said Cid to the red-haired boy. "I heard that you've got a really big family, and you all have red hair. Is that right?"

"Yeah," said Ron, who for some reason looked moody at the mention of his family. "Three of 'em are already here – Percy, Fred and George. I'm the sixth one in my family to come to Hogwarts."

Cid whistled, but at that moment they were interrupted by Dumbledore. The old wizard had stood up to make the start-of-term announcements. Gradually, the Hall fell silent. The nervous feeling in Cloud's stomach had subsided; he was now comfortably warm and full.

The announcements were the usual thing – Cloud knew what to expect from his mother's stories of Hogwarts – no students allowed in the Forbidden Forest, stuff like that. Until, that is, Dumbledore said, "And I advise you all to stay away from the forbidden corridor on the third floor unless you wish to die a very painful death."

He smiled benignly. A few students chuckled uncertainly, but as far as Cloud could tell, the old man was serious. Odd, he thought. But he didn't have time to muse on it, for Dumbledore clapped his hands immediately afterwards and ordered them to go to bed. As one, the students rose noisily. Cloud let the tide of Gryffindor students sweep him out of the Great Hall. He was here at last.

(A/N: Cloud takes on Neville's role in this story, and Cid and Barret replace Seamus and Dean. Next chapter... it's time for flying lessons.)