six and-a-half


"a friend is known in adversity"

"Okaa-sama, why is otou-sama always so... like this?" asked the dark haired five-year-old, pulling the most serious face she could muster. The girl's cheeks were flushed an adorable red, and her dark eyes were wide with childish curiosity.

Hyuuga Harumi smiled at the antics of her beloved daughter.

Her husband was not a man she was in love with, but he was a man who was admirable. He was a respectable man when it came to business and ruling their province, but he was not very good at dealing with family matters, especially a five year old Hinata. He was almost never home, but when he was, his face was remarkably close to the one Hinata was pulling. Albeit a lot less childish.

A slight knock on the screen door interrupted Harumi's thoughts.

"My lady, your tea," a dark haired young woman, after sliding it open gently.

Kurenai was a good girl, and she had been sent to the Hyuuga house to serve as Harumi's handmaiden, when she had been married. She was seventeen now, and she enjoyed playing with the little "Hinata-sama". She thought that Harumi didn't know about the romance she had going on with young Sarutobi in the stables, but Harumi was nothing if not resourceful.

"Kurenai nee-chan!" Hinata's face lit up at seeing the girl. Kurenai smiled and turned to Harumi, as though asking for her permission. Harumi smiled and nodded.

As the two started to play whatever game Hinata had thought up, Harumi's thoughts went back to her ever-silent husband.

Even though Hiashi-sama was as mature as he was, he wasn't much older than her. He had been married young, in order to inherit the throne due to his father's untimely passing. He was a serious individual, that was true, but he was also kind, even though his stern nature masked that kindness.

She hoped that her daughters, the bubbly Hinata and the child growing in her womb, would grow up to appreciate that.

"Hinata nee-sama, Otou-sama summons you."

Hinata's little sister did not grow up with the mother's love that Hinata had been lucky enough to have. Mere months after Hanabi was born, Harumi had died of a mysterious illness.

Hanabi had grown under the stern eye of their father, Hyuuga Hiashi, and had become like a tiny version of the Hyuuga patriarch.

Even though Hanabi is merely eleven, Hinata mused, Otou-sama still clearly prefers her to me.

Kurenai told her that it was simply that Hinata reminded her father too much of her mother to ever be comfortable around her.

"Hinata-sama, you must never lose faith. My lady was very worried about such a situation," she said, in her usual calm tones. "Hyuuga-sama, she said, is a man who rarely shows affection, but it is not that the affection is absent. It's just that it's not announced."

The fourteen year old Hinata, who was going through a rebellious streak (although all she had really done was speak a bit louder and stain her lips red with berries), thought differently.

Her father was just a cold man. She would bear his silence, but that did not mean that she had to love him.

Of course, Hinata's nature was fundamentally kind. Like her mother, she couldn't bring herself to not love her father, even with all of the man's inherent faults. It was simply how she was.

And so, she continued to love her father, her little sister, and even Kurenai, who was more like an older sister than a governess.

When Hinata was sixteen, her father had her betrothed to the second son of the Otsutsuki clan.

The man, Toneri, was five years her senior. He was attractive in an elegant way, and she had heard that he was a decent man. However, Hinata was not content with the arrangement.

As ridiculous as it seemed, she had always dreamed of falling in love and marrying the man of her dreams.

Kurenai was leaving her too, she was getting married to Asuma-san, the horse-handler. On her last day in the Hyuuga compound, Kurenai had embraced her firmly and told her, "Don't give up on your dream, my lady. You can still get married to the man you love. Who says it isn't Otsutsuki-sama? You can try to get to know him, and see if you like what you find."

Hinata was touched, and found herself on the verge of happy tears. "You called me 'my lady'. You've only ever called my mother that, onee-san."

"You have inherited your mother's kind nature, my lady. Her spirit shines through you, and almost everything you do speaks of her soul. I cannot help but see my mistress in you," said Kurenai, misunderstanding Hinata's tears.

"Oh no, onee-san, I am very happy that I have become a woman like my mother. Thank you. For everything."

Six months after Kurenai left, Toneri was staying in the Hyuuga household to get to know the family, and a banquet was being held in his honor.

That night, the Hyuuga house burned.

Hinata was secretly relieved that she didn't have to get married. And she hated herself for it.

A/N: This is just an extra chapter to expand a bit on Hinata's back story. I completely made up her mom's name, but for those of you who are interested, Harumi (春美) means 'spring beauty'.

Also, thank you so, so much for all the encouraging reviews!They really made me smile. Thank you so much for liking my writing :)