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It wasn’t that Katherine Pierce cared – she couldn’t afford to care – but her doppelganger would be very valuable in the coming years.

In a perfect world, Klaus would continue to think Katherine dead, but certain people were not going to leave the tomb closed, and it was only a matter of time – sixteen years, if she was counting right – before it was open again.

Once it was, Katherine’s life would be in danger once more, and her doppelganger would be her ticket to freedom.

Right now, it was more prudent to avoid Klaus, rather than walk into the lion’s den when she didn’t have to, and, besides, she wasn’t sure who the doppelganger was anyway.

Every five hundred years …

Is that five hundred years from my birth or my death?

Isobel had been born roughly five hundred years after Katherine was born, give or take a few years, and there was definitely a resemblance.

The problem with doppelgangers was that they were so rare, that not even the most accomplished witches could tell Katherine much about them.

She knew she looked ‘just like’ the original Petrova – but then how many times had people commented that she looked ‘just like’ her mother – a resemblance Katherine herself had never seen?

If it was that kind of ‘just like’, then Isobel could well be the doppelganger.

On the other hand, Isobel’s daughter had been born exactly five hundred years after Katherine died – to the day, and the resemblance could well be even stronger.

Either way, she would have to wait at least ten years to find out – she had no memory of what she looked like as a child, therefore nothing to compare this child to.

In the meantime, Katherine would continue to watch both of them – it would not do for either of them to come to harm before they were of any use.

That was the only reason she was hanging around the Donovan house, listening to Elena Gilbert screaming.

The screaming hadn’t stopped.

Katherine leaned back against the tree behind her, pinching the bridge of her nose, feeling a migraine beginning to encroach.

Was that even possible when you were dead?

Why hadn’t the screaming stopped?

She told herself she was getting a headache, that the child’s screaming was an inconvenience and an irritation – especially to someone with supernatural hearing.

But as the cries escalated, something clenched inside her chest, remembering the way her own daughter’s cries had shifted so suddenly from those of a newborn expelled from their sanctuary, to those of a child being taken from her mother, even if she was too young to know what was going on.

Help me, the cries seemed to say. I don’t understand, Mommy, where are you?

Of course, Katherine knew where the child’s mother was – where both mothers were.

Her biological mother, Isobel was miles away, probably asleep, back in her own bed after running away to hide a teenage pregnancy.

Her adoptive mother, Miranda, was in hospital with her husband, preparing to give birth, having entrusted one of her oldest friends with her daughter.

Katherine took a deep unneeded breath and let it out slowly, counting to ten. When the cries still didn’t stop, she started forwards, knocking on the front door before she could talk herself out of it.

Kelly Donovan opened the door, her eyes slightly glazed, and Katherine didn’t bother hiding the disgust on her face. “Let me in.” She said softly, her pupils dilating with the force of her compulsion.

“C’min.” Kelly mumbled, turning away and almost stumbling back to the living room.

Katherine shook her head, closing the door behind her. The woman was so out of it, she probably didn’t even realise there was someone else in the house – and not thanks to compulsion either. Ignoring the woman, she made her way upstairs, and found the bedroom of the son – Matthew, was it?

It didn’t matter – the boy was fast asleep, completely oblivious to the halting sobs of the girl he was temporarily sharing a room with.

Katherine fully intended on compelling the child to forget whatever it was that had scared her and just go to sleep.

But when Elena saw her, her arms flung up, a silent plea for comfort, even from this woman she didn’t know.

Katherine hesitated for a second, before telling herself that compelling babies was a bad idea anyway. Reaching into the travel-crib, she lifted the young girl into her arms, settling into the chair that sat by the window. “That’s enough.” She said softly. “You’re safe. It’s not real.”

Elena’s sobs seemed to quieten, her hand clutching Katherine’s shirt as tears continued to fall.

Katherine rocked her almost absently, her mind wandering back five hundred years to her own daughter’s birth, remembering how she had begged to be allowed to see her for just a second.

It was a plea that was denied, and Katherine’s only comfort in the months that followed, were the memories of her pregnancy, cherishing each flutter and movement inside her.

The crying had stopped, and Katherine realised she had started humming under her breath, a lullaby she had resorted to late at night, when her unborn child had kept her awake with continuous movement.

Even with the realisation, she didn’t stop, allowing herself to indulge for just a little while longer. It wasn’t until she had been a vampire for nearly five years that she had allowed herself to find her daughter, and been forced to admit that Anastasia had never been ‘hers’ at all.

Not really.

Once she had confirmed the doppelganger curse, she knew that Klaus would never harm her daughter, since she was his only hope to eventually break his own curse, but that didn’t stop her from searching under the cover of darkness, covering her tracks with increasing paranoia.

Klaus might not harm Anastasia, but that wouldn’t stop him from watching, waiting, ready to strike when the next doppelganger was born.

If Katherine was as heartless as she swore she had become, she would have ended things then and there, killed her daughter quickly and painlessly before anyone could suffer the same way she had.

But even though Anastasia was now eight years old, even though it was another woman – a family friend – she called Mama, even though she was little more than a stranger, Katherine’s love for her daughter remained as strong as it had been when she was born.

She could no sooner harm Anastasia than she could herself.

Katherine probably should have left, got as far away from her daughter as possible, to protect her descendants from Klaus for as long as possible, and give her inevitable doppelganger at least a chance for a normal life.

But she didn’t.

She watched from a distance, as Anastasia grew up, watched her fall in love with a neighbour’s son, watched their families approve a union between them, watched her grandchildren (all six of them) arrive healthily into the world and go on to have families of their own.

Fifty years after the hot, stuffy day her daughter had arrived on Earth, Katherine realised her time was coming to a close.

The closest thing they had to a doctor had left the house, shaking his head, and family was beginning to gather, preparing for the inevitable funeral.

For the first time, Katherine made herself known, compelling the maid to invite her into the house, and then compelling everyone to ignore her presence and wait downstairs.

Anastasia was asleep when Katherine entered her bedchamber, sweat beading on her brow from the illness that was beginning to take its toll.

Sitting beside her, Katherine gently wiped her forehead with a cloth dipped in cool water, dropping the mask she had been wearing for so long.

For a few minutes, Katerina was permitted to return, to be with her daughter, even if just for a little while.

Anastasia’s eyes fluttered open, and met Katerina’s with no fear or trepidation. Her trembling hand lifted to reach for her and Katerina caught it gently.

“Mama …” Anastasia whispered. “Have you come to take me home?”

Katerina knew from her surveillance that Anastasia had been told that her father had died of an illness shortly before her birth and that she herself had died in childbirth (rather than know the shame of being a bastard child), but as far as she knew, her daughter had no idea what she looked like.

“Not just yet, darling.” Katerina said softly. “But how did you know?”

“I wasn’t sure.” Anastasia admitted hoarsely. “Not until she spoke. You used to sing to me.”

“You could hear me.” Katerina murmured. “You weren’t even born yet.”

“I clung to it as a child.” Anastasia said. “It made me feel like you were watching over me.” She began coughing, and Katerina carefully helped her sit up, guiding the woman to settle into her arms, holding her daughter for the first – and last – time.

“It hurts, Mama.” Anastasia sobbed. “I want to go home.”

“Ssh …” Katerina soothed, stroking her daughter’s hair. “It will all be over soon, my love. Sleep, and know that I love you.”

“Love you, Mama.” Anastasia whispered, her eyes slowly closing.

As her daughter’s breathing began to slow, Katerina began to sing softly, the same lullaby she had sung all those years ago, the Bulgarian flowing from her lips as easily as English now did, despite how long it had been since she spoke in her mother tongue.

As the memories flowed through her, Katherine found herself doing the same thing as she calmed Elena, automatically translating the words to English as she did.

A gentle breeze from Hushaby Mountain,

Softly blows over Lullaby Bay

It fills the sails of boats that are waiting,

Waiting to sail your worries away

It isn’t far to Hushaby Mountain

And your boat waits down by the quay,

The winds of night so softly are sighing,

Soon they will fly your worries to sea,

So close your eyes on Hushaby Mountain,

Say goodbye to the cares of the day,

And watch your boat from Hushaby Mountain,

Sail far away from Lullaby Bay

Like Anastasia, Elena’s breathing slowed as Katherine sang, but only to the gentle pace of a sleeping child, whereas her daughter’s had stopped altogether.

Katherine hadn’t shed a tear when Anastasia died. Her daughter had lived a long, full life (as long and full as a woman in the early fifteen-hundreds could have lived), and had been happy, and healthy, and …

Nothing like Katherine.

Not long after Anastasia’s passing, Katherine had finally flipped the humanity switch, fed up with the crippling loneliness of worrying about what Klaus would do to anyone she involved herself with, and the switch had remained off until 1864.

The Salvatore brothers.

“If only Damon would forget me and leave me to rot, I wouldn’t be having this trouble.” Katherine murmured to the now-sleeping child. “Then again, if he did that, he wouldn’t be the man I …”

She cut herself off abruptly.

Her humanity was going to get someone killed if she wasn’t careful.

Setting Elena back in the travel-crib, Katherine lingered for a second to make sure she only had pleasant dreams for the rest of the night, before jumping out of the window.

One of her associates met her in the woods, stale smoke on his breath. “Where you been, Kat?”

Katherine grimaced at the name. She’d never been particularly fond of it – Stefan had been the only person who’d ever managed to use it with any kind of grace. “None of your business, Vince, what do you want?”

He grinned at her, showing off blood-stained teeth. “I know where they are. When you’re ready.”

“They?” Katherine asked blankly.

“The Originals.” Vincent elaborated, lowering his voice. “Klaus. And Elijah. I know where they are when you’re ready to tell them.”

“I don’t know which girl it is yet.” Katherine said snappily. “I can wait.”

“Then I’ll tell ‘em.” Vincent said, shrugging his shoulders. “Bet there’s some kinda reward in it anyhow.”

Katherine’s hand snapped forward before Vincent had time to blink, seizing his heart and tearing it from his chest.

As his body fell to the ground, Katherine let out a weary sigh, tossing his heart after it. It wasn’t that she had a particular problem with killing people – after five hundred years, it was difficult not to acclimatise – but now she’d have to dispose of the body.

Plus, her reaction had been entirely automatic, and that bothered her, because she didn’t think it was the threat to her own wellbeing that had triggered it.

“Damn it, Elena.” She murmured, glancing back up at the window. “You’re going to be the death of me.”

Flinging the body over her shoulder, Katherine set off into the woods, hoping beyond hope that Isobel was the doppelganger, because she knew now that Klaus sacrificing Elena just wasn’t going to happen.

Not if she could help it.