It wasn't Hinata herself that finally got his attention. Not the fact that she'd made Chuunin the year before--Neji, after all, had made Jounin. Nor the fact that the Hokage had sent her and her team on several important missions. The boys, after all, were both powerful ninja.
It wasn't even her manners, or the way she'd stopped stammering, or how she had taken over being the matriarch of the house so well while her mother was sick.
It was nothing Hinata did that made her father finally see her. It was Kiba, and Shino, and the power they had between them. It was the way they stood around her, as if they were her clan, bound to protect her by blood and ninjustu. It was the fact that they were bound by neither, and yet remained, braced against impossible odds. Ready to lay down their lives for a little Chuunin girl who could barely say her own name.
And, then and only then, was it Hinata. Hinata, who called both young men back with the softest word imaginable. "Don't." Just that, and both of her teammates stepped back, released authority. Did as she said.
It wasn't her bloodline abilities, her speed, her stamina. It was the two men who gave her their power and trusted her to use it well. It was the sudden, and surprising, realization that somewhere along the line, she had grown up.
It wasn't Hinata herself that finally got his attention. It was the power she held, when he had never thought her capable of any.