Elijah is an original vampire. He is Klaus' brother, and despises Klaus for killing his family. Being an original, Elijah has the ability to compel other vampires.
He makes a deal with Elena, and tells her that as long as she stays put, he would not harm her friends or family.
Right as Bonnie is about to kill Klaus at the end of season 2, Klaus tells Elijah that he can reunite him with his family if he saves him. In an act of desperation, Elijah breaks his word to Elena by saving Klaus.
In the end, Klaus reunites Elijah with his family....by kidding him with the white oak ash dagger.
Mother made us vampires. She didn't make us monsters. We did that to ourselves.Elijah
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Klaus: What an entirely unwelcome surprise.
Elijah: And what an entirely unsurprising welcome.
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You want a love that consumes you. You want passion and adventure, and even a little danger... I want you to get everything you're looking for. But for right now, I want you to forget that this happened. Can't have people knowing I'm in town yet. Goodnight, Elena.Damon
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The best revenge is patient, cultivated. Nobody sees it coming until it's too late.Enzo