Oliver Wood hated the war. It was supposed to end quickly; they were supposed to be back home by Christmas. Now it was the night before twenty-fourth of December 1914 and they hadn't moved an inch in the last few weeks.
"What do you think those Germans are doing right now?" Percy Weasley asked him quietly. The redhead had dark bags under his eyes and was nearly bone-thin by now.
"Dunno, don't care," Oliver said distractedly, trying to read the newspaper scrap he had found. It mentioned the Aberdeen F. C., his favourite team.
Suddenly they heard a shrill whistle. "Oi, you Tommies, we would like to sing a few Christmas songs at seven thirty. Would be wonderful if you didn't disturb the harmony with your bullets!" somebody called over the no man's land.
"You kiddin'?" Percy called back.
"No, we'll put candles on the edge of the trench when we start!" they answered.
"Alright, have fun!" Oliver called. He understood the sentiment all too well and his men wouldn't dare to disobey him.
They continued with their nightly duties of taking care of their trench and themselves. It was still dark when Oliver spotted the flickering flame of a candle.
"Cease fire!" he commanded, even though it was just a formality. The shooting wouldn't start until it was light.
At first no sound crossed the distance between the trenches, but then the wind changed its direction and distinct singing could be heard. After a few minutes more and more voices joined in and finally the Brits could hear what they were singing.
"Silent Night?" Percy whispered, flabbergasted.
"Seems so," Bill Weasley, his older brother, replied. He had been Captain of their unit once, by now he was their Major. "It sounds strange in German to be honest."
"Everything sounds strange in German," Charlie Weasley, the middle brother, joked.
Oliver chuckled and decided to light a fag and enjoy the peace while it lasted. He leaned back against the cold, wet mud and tried to feel comfortable. But he wasn't. Not at all.
When the Germans stopped singing Oliver put out his fag and took up his rifle. It was day by now. But then the whistle that had sounded earlier in the morning sounded once again.
"Merry Christmas!" many called and then the one who had asked for a ceasefire called: "Care for a duet?"
"I would rather die than sing in German!" Oliver Wood called over.
"And we would kill you if you tried!" the German called back. Laughter welled up on both sides. "But I think 'Silent Night' has the same melody in each language."
Oliver had to chuckle at the cheek. "Alright, deal!"
This time the Brits started and the Germans joined in at the first chorus.
Oliver had to admit that it wasn't the cold burning in his eyes. Why couldn't they just stop this damned war altogether if they managed to be peaceful on Christmas Eve?
By the time they stopped singing the sun was high in the sky, and Oliver could finally read his football scores.
Marcus Flint had to admit that he was glad that the Brits seemed to have a sense of humour. That little concert had gone really well and his Major had only rolled his eyes once. Marcus leaned back against the mud. It was cold and wet and definitely most uncomfortable but he was Hauptmann on duty so he couldn't just go and get himself a chair.
"Flint, you know the football scores?" Müller asked quietly.
"No, haven't seen a newspaper in days," Marcus said and suddenly he had a weird idea. He stood up and peeked over the edge of the trench, hoping that he wasn't visible enough to be shot. "Anyone got the latest football scores over there?" Marcus called and listened for any replies.
The same voice who had answered his first questions called back. "Yeah, but I don't fancy shouting them over to you." After a short silence he continued. "Christmas truce?"
Marcus looked over to Major Malfoy who shrugged and nodded. Even though he was only seventeen, the boy had been made Major since he was high nobility.
"Truce! I will come up first, so we know that you honour your word," Marcus called and stood up from his crouched position slowly. When no bullet hit him immediately he made his way to a ladder.
He stepped on the first rung and pushed himself up slowly. Marcus repeated that process until he was able to step on the no man's land. Still he could only hear sounds of bullets and grenades whizzing through the air from a distance. Marcus realised that on the other side of the scarred ground another man had stepped from the trench. They walked towards each other, bodies and faces tense, expecting an ambush the whole time.
"Morgen," Marcus said as soon as they were in speaking distance. "I am Hauptmann Marcus Flint."
"Morning," the other replied. "Captain Oliver Wood."
Standing in front of each other they measured up their supposed enemy. Marcus was a bit bigger than the burly Captain Wood, but he wouldn't want to fight hand-to-hand with the man. His fists looked as if he could crush rocks with them.
"Maybe we should shake hands to show our men that it's safe to come out," Wood suggested and stretched his hand out.
"Sounds like a good idea," Marcus replied stiffly and clasped the other's hand. Of course they tried to crush the other and finally Marcus gave up. "Now, you said something about football scores?"
Wood laughed. "Gave them to my Lieutenant so you wouldn't shoot me and get them anyway."
Marcus snorted. "Come on, we are Germans, not some French frog eaters!"
"So the Boches are that much better?" Wood asked, his eyes glinting, and he was obviously trying to suppress a grin.
"Obviously. We haven't retreated a metre since we came here after all," Marcus joked and Wood chuckled drily. They were interrupted by a young dark-skinned man.
"Captain, your newspaper!" he said and thrust the paper into Wood's hands.
"Thank you Johnson," Wood said with a smile.
"That one wasn't older than nineteen and he is your Lieutenant?" Marcus asked in astonishment.
"Angus just turned twenty-one, and he is extremely talented. The men listen to him," Wood explained with a smile. It didn't reach his eyes.
Marcus spotted Müller and called him over. "Captain, do you mind if Feldwebel Müller takes the newspaper for a moment?" he asked with a wink and Wood actually blushed.
"Yeah, of course," he said looking a bit flustered. "By the way: are those miniature Christmas trees on the edges of your trench?"
Turning around Marcus had to admit that it looked like it. "Welcher Idiot…? Oberleutnant Pucey!" he bellowed.
The man flinched and Marcus nearly regretted his reaction. But then the young man turned around and came to him. "Ja, Hauptmann?"
"Who had the fucking idea to put the Christmas trees there?" Marcus barked.
"Major Malfoy. He said if we wanted to honour the holiday spirit we might as well do it properly," the Oberleutnant answered, shaking like a leaf in the wind. Marcus had to admit that he was known to punish misbehaving soldiers hard, but he hadn't known that he could ignite such fear.
"Alright," Marcus sighed. The Major was really too young for all of this. "Might as well get the packages from home and maybe some firewood. What do you think, Captain?"
"Lieutenant Johnson!" Wood called and the young man appeared at his side. "Get the packages from the Crown and firewood. Might as well make it cosy out here."
Marcus laughed. "Our commanders would explode if they saw us. I like it."
"Well, McGonagall would probably understand, even if he would lecture us quite thoroughly," Wood said, mirth glinting in his eyes. Marcus noted the hard edge to his words though and wondered what kind of person the Colonel was.
Oliver watched the Hauptmann. When he had called his Oberleutnant the man had flinched as if he expected to be punished. Well, Flint looked like one of those officers who reigned with an iron hand. But his men seemed very disciplined and maybe it wasn't as bad as Oliver thought.
"Snape would tear us to pieces if he knew," Flint said quietly. "Would probably have my head for this. Malfoy's is too precious. But mine? Nobody cares about a lowly baron."
Oliver looked over to the other man. His expression was dark and the Scotsman had the sneaking suspicion that he meant what he said literally. Out of habit Oliver flipped his pack of fags open only to remember that he had smoked his last one during the 'concert'.
Putting his pack away he turned to call for someone to get him his things. But before he could say anything the Hauptmann hold a fag under his nose. Literally.
"Care to try the German stuff?" he asked, his voice gruff and a smile playing at the corner of his lips.
"Are you sure that my Scottish lungs will survive that?" Oliver joked, but he took the fag and produced a flame from his lighter.
"So that's why I have a hard time understanding you," Flint said, lighting his own fag.
"Yeah, sorry about that," Oliver said sarcastically and the other laughed. "By the way, congratulations to your terrible accent."
"I know. My father got grey hairs from me not being able to pronounce words," Flint said chuckling. "I guess being from Saxony doesn't work too well with English."
"Maybe," Oliver admitted.
They fell silent again, watching their men prepare camp fires. They brought benches from a close-by farm house. Finally they were done and Johnson and Pucey came over.
"Hauptmann, Captain, if you would light the fire?" Pucey asked while saluting them. Johnson stood next to him doing the same.
They exchanged a glance and shrugged. Oliver stepped forward and was given a few dry twigs which he lit. Flint did the same on the other side of the pyre.
Soon the camp fire was burning and the soldiers settled on the benches around it. It was afternoon by now and they decided to get their rations and eat at the fire. Nobody felt like sleeping even though they all had been awake through the night, repairing and restocking their respective trenches.
"Is your Major here?" Flint asked Oliver after they had eaten their meagre meals in silence for a few minutes.
"No, he thought the risk that a sharpshooter would hit him would be too high," Oliver said taking a sip from his flask.
"Good. Malfoy would have been angry if he found out that yours was here but he wasn't," Flint said laughing. "He is a bit insecure about his position since he didn't earn it."
"Understandably so," Oliver said, lighting his next fag. He really did smoke too much. Not that it mattered. He would be dead soon anyway. "I would be nervous as well if I hadn't worked my way up."
Suddenly one of the Germans brought a ball from their trench and many Brits jumped up to join in the game. Oliver exchanged a glance with Flint who was smiling brightly.
"I bet we Germans can beat you easily!" he called jumping up and running to his men.
"Challenge accepted!" Oliver shouted and walked over to his own men who opened their circle for him. "Alright, same procedure as last time, when we played against those idiots of the Fifth. But remember, don't let them too far in!"
"Yes, Captain!" the ten other men yelled and walked to their positions.
Oliver saw Flint taking position as a striker, while he positioned himself in the makeshift goal. He and his men had played football back in Blighty, partly to train their endurance and partly to get to know each other. It was unusual but worked pretty well.
Soon Oliver noticed that the Germans played rather aggressively and his men had taken a few rough fouls. But as usual Charlie had made three goals by now anyway. Flint was quite a danger; luckily Angus Johnson managed to steal the ball from the Hauptmann more than once.
The score was thirteen to thirteen when suddenly a German soldier came running to Flint and interrupted their game. He saluted his Hauptmann and said something. Oliver's German was terrible but he understood the words "Inspektion" and "Oberstleutnant".
"Captain, we have to get going. I don't know how long the Oberstleutnant will stay, but maybe we could repeat this for New Year's Eve?" the Hauptmann asked and Oliver nodded. "Müller, give the Captain his newspaper! Zurück in die Gräben!"
Oliver send his men back into the trench as well and he was the last to descend. When he turned around he saw Flint standing on the edge of his trench. He was saluting. Oliver hoped he would see the Hauptmann again. That man had a wicked sense of humour and was an excellent football-player.