Disclaimer: Naruto does not belong to me.

Hanabi's Lesson

"She knows. She knows all about us."

Hanabi spoke those words excitedly, almost gleefully, but she immediately lost her smirk when Neji suddenly grabbed her by the throat and thrust her up hard against the nearest tree trunk.

"Oooooougffff!!" Hanabi choked as all the breath was knocked out of her from the impact. Her hands automatically went up to tug insistently at his iron grip around her throat while her hanging legs struggled to kick out at him, but to no avail. Her eyes began to water and she stared beseechingly at Neji while choking out, "Nii…iii…saan." It had worked before. Her crying that is. However, this time round, things seemed different.

His hold on her was tight but he was not gripping her hard enough to suffocate her yet, although she knew for sure that there would be marks left on her neck if she got out of this alive. He was glaring at her in a hard way, a dangerous way. She had not seen this side of him before. Or at least he had never shown this side of himself to her before. She imagined this must be what his enemies faced when he got angry. She knew he must be very angry now and she shuddered to find out what he intended to do to her.

"Hanabi, what did you do?" Neji's voice was very hard and cold just like his eyes. Hanabi shivered uncontrollably. The rebellious side of her wanted to snub him and his question but self-preservation kicked in when he tightened his grip.

"I…I…," Hanabi could have kicked herself for stammering. She was Hyuuga Hanabi, not her weak-spirited sister, Hyuuga Hinata. Stammering was not her style. Neji continued to eye her umovedly. He did not even seem to notice her stammering or maybe he did not find it unusual for people to stammer whilst facing him in fight mode. However, Hanabi still cared, so after gathering all her wits, she managed to keep her shivering to a minimum and using as commanding a voice as she could muster, she responded, "I did nothing. She was eavesdropping on my conversation with Otou-san an…and that was how she found out."

Her eyes watched his face carefully for the slightest reaction but there was none. Even so, she continued on curtly, "Release me now! I am the new heir and I command you to release me now."

Neji seemed to deflate a little when she said that last sentence because his eyes cast downwards and he said softly, almost to himself, "And if I don't?"

"Neji! What are you doing?" A familiar voice came from behind Neji and Hanabi felt a mixture of fear and relief as Neji's hand on her throat tightened briefly before he released her. She fell to the ground, sucking in sweet sustenance whilst her hands continued to clutch her neck as if to ensure that her head was still attached. Looking up, she saw her grandfather glaring hard at Neji, his hands already holding up the hand seal that would activate the cursed seal. That was when she realised that Neji had released her because his own hands had flown to his head. Before her eyes, he collapsed to the ground gasping and moaning in pain as his eyes rolled to the back of his skull, while his hands continued clutching his head.

"Ojii-san, stop it!" Hanabi finally managed to scream out, her voice coming out hoarse and raw from her previous ordeal with Neji.

"What were you doing, Neji? Trying to suffocate the Hanabi? How dare you, Neji? Don't you know she is our new heir?" Her grandfather bellowed at Neji even as he kept up the hand seals that kept the cursed seal activated.

"Ojii-san, please!!" Hanabi finally managed to get to her feet and ran to her grandfather's side, attempting to pull his hands apart. Neji's nose and ears were bleeding and his hands were gripping onto his skull so hard that his fingers had turned all white.

Just then her father, Hyuuga Hiashi appeared and demanded, "What is going on here? Otou-san, stop that!"

Hinata, who had been following quietly behind her father, gave a loud squeal when she saw the fallen and bleeding Neji. She immediately rushed to his prone form and tried to ascertain his condition.

Upon Hiashi's command, her grandfather did stop the activation of the cursed seal but by that time, Neji's body was already still. It was at this point that Hanabi felt the coldest dread in her life. He was meant to be the love of her life but she had just indirectly caused his death. Hanabi stood frozen in the midst of all the resuscitation efforts because she felt as if the whole world had stopped. She did not think it would ever move again.

A/N: Sorry everyone for my long absence. I will try to wrap up my story soon. I thank you for all your reviews. It was very encouraging.