D/C: I don't own Harry Potter.

Hello! Here's another story I wrote for a contest, and surprisingly, this story won first place! I was so happy! We had to write about a character's first Christmas after the battle, and I thought George would be perfect for this. I really like this story.

Ah, well, anyway...enjoy!!

Home

"E?"

The wooden man made an odd sort of noise and started to ascend the third step which led up to the gallows. George Weasley groaned and scratched the back of his head. Sighing in frustration, he rested his elbows against the counter and stared thoughtfully at the paper on which he'd got right. So far, out of the six-letter word he had to be guessing, he only had the letter 'm'.

He was momentarily distracted by the scrunching of snow outside the shop, and he looked up hopefully. But the cloaked wizard walked right past the bright display of the Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes without a second glance. George sighed in defeat; who was he kidding? No one would come today – everyone was probably with their families, huddled around the fire, drinking hot cider and eating cakes. After all, it was Christmas.

The wooden man didn't like to be kept waiting. "Do you have a guess?" it asked in a tinny voice.

"Uh, sorry," George murmured. "Um…L?"

"You are correct."

George allowed himself a small smile and noted down the letter. "Right, shall we go with A, then?"

"You are correct."

Pleased with his good luck, he wrote down the A and tried to figure out any possible order for the three letters he had, but in vain. He looked around the shop for any clues, but nothing in there had all three letters in their name. He frowned at the wooden man, who had one foot on the third step, and the other on the wooden stage.

"How about a C, then?" he asked.

The wooden man issued the odd noise again, and lifted up the foot which had been on the third step and placed it on the stage. It only had to walk four more steps to get to the noose of the rope. George gulped.

"I?" he said helplessly.

"You are correct."

George looked down at the letters he now had, and thought they formed a word which looked oddly familiar. "Malice?" he asked eagerly. "Is it malice?"

To his dismay, the wooden man took a step towards the rope. He had never been lucky with Hangman; he barely ever won, and if he did, the wooden man would be just a step away from pulling the noose of the rope over his head. Fred had always helped him with this game; he always seemed to make the right guesses. Fred was also the reason why he was spending his Christmas at the shop, and not the Burrow. Sitting here in the shop, he was always able to feel his brother's presence, but in the Burrow...George would be forced to go to an empty room at night, and acknowledge the fact that he's going to be spending his first Christmas without his twin brother.

"Do you have a guess?" the wooden man prompted him.

"N? No, wait, I already said N! It doesn't count!" he cried out, but the wooden man had already made his move. George groaned again, and he stared down at the four letters he had. M, A, L and I. He didn't know what his next letter should be. "P?"

Again, the wooden man walked to the rope. He had only two chances left, and he had to be careful with the letters he chose. He rubbed the back of his neck, and squinted at the man, as if willing him to give him a little hint. "Well...how about this? F?"

"You are correct."

George gave a whoop of triumph, and he noted down the letter. He frowned for a moment. The letters were making more sense now. "Oh, you have to be joking," he muttered. "Family? Is that it?"

"You are correct. The word is family," the wooden man said, and started doing a little country dance.

George wasn't paying attention anymore. He was finding it rather ironic, that a toy was reminding him of the thing he was trying to avoid the most. His family. He had been avoiding them ever since the final battle, and even when he did come across them, he would gently excuse himself saying that he had some business to do elsewhere. It was selfish of him, and he knew that; after all, he wasn't the only one who missed Fred. But none of them had the relationship they had. They didn't understand what it was like for him to lose his twin brother...they did not know how it felt to loose your second half.

He felt rather empty without him. He had always been a part of "Fred and George", but now he was just...George. His name had a naked feel about it which he hated.

George could picture what the Burrow looked like at the moment. He could imagine the fairy lights hovering around its many 'turrets'. He could imagine the kitchen, all cosy and warm and filled with various delicious aromas...he could picture everyone's sitting around the table. He couldn't place himself anywhere in that picture. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't begin to imagine sitting at that table without Fred at his side. It wouldn't be the same. If Fred wasn't there, who would crack jokes with him? If Fred wasn't there, who would join him in starting a food fight? Who would tease Ron and Percy? Who would torment Harry about his relationship with Ginny?

"What do you think, Fred?" he asked the portrait hanging on the wall.

But the portrait Fred was snoozing on a comfy-looking armchair, and hence George's question was left without a verbal answer. The truth was, George knew perfectly well what Fred's answer might be.

"George, you prat, what the hell are you still doing here? Why haven't you gone home yet? Do you have any idea what you're doing, apart from missing out on the perfect opportunity to snap a picture of Percy and Penelope under the mistletoe? You're making mum upset, that's what! We both vowed never to make her upset anymore, remember?"

"Mmm..."

George sighed; he remembered all too well. On that day when he had lost his ear, he and Fred had retreated to their room, and had vowed never to upset their mother...whether it was on purpose or accidentally on purpose. They had both seen how terrified she had looked that day, and they weren't about to let her go through that again. She had enough on her mind. But by staying in the shop on Christmas, he was doing the exact opposite of what he was supposed to do.

"Fred would be proud," he said dryly.

"The word was family," the wooden man said, now that he had stopped dancing. "Do you want to play another round?"

George stared at the wooden man for a moment, pondering his next move. He sighed. "Oh, sod it," he mumbled. "Hang man, pack yourself up; I'm going home for Christmas."

And yet, George stalled as much as he could...packing things, rearranging items on the shelves, wiping the counter clean twice, locking the door three times...before finally Apparating outside the front door of the Burrow. Peering through the fogged up window, he was able to see his family, sitting around the kitchen table. Surprisingly, though, the food seemed to be untouched. Confused, George pushed the door open and stepped inside.

There was a collective gasp...and relieved sighs...from the occupants of the kitchen, which was the reaction George had expected. Grinning weakly, he raised a hand in greeting. "Hello," he said cheerfully.

"Oh, thank God, I was getting hung-" Ron started, and broke off with a yelp. George could tell from the expression on Hermione's face that she'd probably kicked him under the table.

There was a scrapping sound as Mrs. Weasley pushed back her chair and stood up. The whole table seemed to hold her breath...even George felt rather apprehensive; he didn't overlook the possibility of a slap right then and there. His mother stood before him now, and George was able to see that she was quivering. Her expression was fierce and her jaw was set, and her eyes seemed ablaze with anger. No one said anything; they were all waiting to see what would happen.

The breakdown seemed to come from George, as he wrapped his arms around his mother and hid his face in her shoulder, while he shook with silent sobs. Mrs. Weasley's expression softened, and tears rolled down her cheeks as she held on to her son.

"I'm sorry...I'm sorry, mum," he whispered.

"It's okay, dear."

George kept apologizing over and over again, while his mother simply rubbed his back and whispered soothing words in his ear. Behind them, Hermione was dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief while Ron looked utterly at loss at what he should be doing. Ginny's face was glowing, and she leaned happily against Harry. Everyone else on the table was watching with approval.

It might've taken George a while to realise this, but...home is where Fred will always be.

Merry Christmas, Fred.

-

A/N: Awww. (sniffles) That was sad, wasn't it? And the wooden man was a good touch, wasn't it? I'm so proud of it! I hope you enjoyed reading this little one-shot, because I'll be wanting reviews! Thanks!

­- S. N. B.