Author Notes: Although this is posted to the X-Men comics section, so many people misplace their fics that I feel I must point out that this is comic continuity Magneto, not movie or cartoon, and original comic at that, not Ultimate.
The "Five Things" is a fairly well known format in fandom, describing five different alternate universes for a character. I'd written the first three things in 2003, but didn't get the fourth until last year and was stuck on the fifth until this month. Now it's done, yay!
And yes, for those who aren't up on the full history of the Marvel Universe... Charles Xavier had blond hair as a boy.
Five Things That Never Happened to Erik Lehnsherr
New York City lay broken below him, with more to follow. His commandant praised him, and there was a celebration with champagne and scantily clad girls. One of them twined herself around him, her body promising far more delightful entertainments tonight. He let her play with his hair while the officers gloated about tomorrow's attack on Washington. It would be as successful as the operation today had been, he knew. He was the Reich's great superweapon, the Ubermensch, and he had defeated every American superhero who had come against him.
After he'd broken England's resistance in a rain of downed planes with destroyed engines, the Americans had come for him. He'd fought Captain America, the Human Torch, the Sub-Mariner, the All-Winners Squad… All had fallen to his power. He was the Master of Magnetism, the Chosen One of the Master Race, and his destiny was assured. None would ever defeat him.
That night he returned to his room, expecting the woman to be there. Instead there was a blond boy, a teen perhaps four or five years younger than he was. Hardly more than fifteen or sixteen. He blinked. He had no interest in young boys, and the thought that anyone might think he might awakened long-buried memories he didn't want stirred. He scowled.
"What are you doing here?" he snarled.
The boy only looked at him. Erik summoned power, making a fist and letting it glow with the fire he commanded. "Talk, dog! What are you doing in my room?"
"I actually came to kill you," the blond boy said in an American accent. "But you're really just as much a victim as any they've killed. You're just too pathetic. I can't do it."
Furious, Erik fired a bolt of pure electricity at the boy. It went straight through. The boy was a ghost.
"What are you?" Erik demanded, too angry to be frightened yet.
"That's a funny question, coming from you," the boy said. "Let's just say I'm the ghost of the family you betrayed, of the people you left behind."
Erik's eyes widened. The first thing he thought was that the boy didn't look like a Jew. The next thing he did was to stomp hard on that thought. He didn't want to think that word, didn't want to remember his family, didn't want to think about anything except what he was now--
--because if he remembered he would have to remember starving, being filthy, exhausted from overwork and beaten frequently and knowing he would die, he'd been condemned to this hellhole to die--
--and then the high-ranking SS officer had had him brought to a room with food, and told him there was a terrible mistake, that the Jews had stolen him as a child and the SS officer was his true father--
--and he'd known it wasn't true because he'd heard all his life about how much like his mother he looked, how his father's fey sister had his coloring, how much his personality was like his father's, and he knew he was his parents' child, but if he challenged the lie he would be back in the asshole of the world, starving and beaten and dying, and all he had to do to live was to accept the lie, believe the lie, live the lie--
--and Erik wanted so very much to live--
He couldn't move. His body was literally frozen. He wanted to summon power, wanted to attack the blond boy, but neither his body nor his power would respond.
And then the visions began.
His father, the father he'd rejected to preserve his own miserable life, stood before him, raging at his son's betrayal. His sister wept, begging to know how he could have done it. His mother froze him with icy silence, rejecting him as he had rejected her, casting him away, as he had thrown away everything he believed in so he could live, and be free.
Those he left behind in the camps screamed at him, chanting. How many more had died, because he'd cooperated with the Nazis? While he was eating fine food and wearing nice clothes and killing anyone who so much as hinted they remembered he used to be a Jew, his friends, his family, his people had been slaughtered and he'd allowed it. Helped it. How many French Jews had died because of the work he'd done for the Reich? How many English Jews had perished in the same flames he'd escaped?
They surrounded him now, demanding to know why, crowding in on him. He remembered digging his way out of a grave full of their bodies, leaving them behind then, and again when the SS officer had come with his lie, and he had done more than leave them behind. He had betrayed them. He had sent many of them to their deaths. How many more lime pits like the one that held his parents and sister were there now, because of him?
Erik screamed, and fell to the floor holding his head. He wanted to beg for them to stop, but he knew he didn't deserve any mercy. All the memories he'd suppressed for six years, everything he had tried so hard not to remember lest he be thrown back into that hellhole, overwhelmed him. He was the worst creature ever to have walked the planet. He had allowed his own to be condemned just so that he could survive, and thrive. He had thought himself superior, but it was not so. He was the lowest thing in creation, and he wanted to die. In desperate self-hatred he tried to summon the power to stop his own heart.
"Oh, no, Erik," the blond boy said softly, and knelt down by him. "No, you don't get to die. That is no atonement. You want to make up for your sins? You want to redeem yourself?"
"Yes," Erik whispered, his voice hoarse from screaming and weeping. "Yes, please... please tell me..."
"Fight them. Turn on them. Break the Reich, free the slaves in the camps. You have the power to do it. None of them can possibly stand against you." The boy shook his head sadly. "It isn't entirely your fault. They brainwashed you, and you let it happen because they'd broken you already, in the camps. I'm so sorry. I wasn't old enough to do anything about it then, but now I have the power to help you. If you fight back, if you destroy the Reich, you can atone for your crimes in fighting for them. If you free the Jews in the camps you can atone for having allowed the Nazis to send so many more to their deaths. It's the only thing you can do."
"Yes. I'll do it. Yes."
The chanting, screaming ghosts faded away. The boy stood up and smiled. "Good. See that you do, Erik. Or I will have to bring them back."
And then he was gone, vanishing, as if he'd never been there.
Numbly Erik staggered to the mirror and stared into it. There was the face of a Jew. It had always been the face of a Jew. And it was more than time that he remembered that, and remembered where his true loyalties should lay.
"My name," he whispered, "is Erik Lehnsherr."
Then he straightened up and strode out into the hallway. He had former comrades to kill.