A/N:  I'm sorry, but I was watching TLC and I saw this advertisement for this show and then I went "Oh!  I could have so much fun, playing with Ronniekins."  And so here I am.  :-)  I'm going to concentrate more on my Artemis Fowl story than this one, so if I'm in a fluffy mood, I'll update, but don't expect anything regular.  There, I've warned you.

Disclaimer:  It's all JKR.  I'm going to marry a guy whose last name begins with R so those will be my initials, too, so when I write a blockbuster series people will get all confused.  :-)  But that hasn't happened yet.  Um…oh, yeah, I'm not sure what year The Wedding Singer came out, so I'm just guessing when Tonks says Love Stinks.  :-)

The Date Patrol

            Ron sat morosely.  Well, he didn't actually sit morosely, but as he sat he felt morose.  So anyway…

            Ron sat at the dining room table, feeling morose.  It was July 20.  Dumbledore wouldn't allow Harry to leave the Dursleys' until after his birthday, so it would be over a week before Ron's best friend came to 12 Grimmauld Place.  Ron's family had taken over the house again for the second summer in a row, mainly out of an interest in safety.  Mrs. Weasley was doubly worried about her children, now that Voldemort and his followers knew that they were associated with Harry Potter.

            Ron pushed the thought away.  He didn't want to think about Voldemort.  Everything was still muddled, but he remembered enough to know he should be grateful for his amnesia.  Harry, on the other hand…and Harry was stuck at the Dursleys.  Ron, Hermione, and Ginny wrote him daily, and his letters came back, almost dutiful, but still sad.  Ginny insisted he was still coping with Sirius, although Ron couldn't figure what made her such an authority on Harry, even though he knew she was right. But just because she was right about Harry didn't mean she was smart; she was dating Dean Thomas, for crying out loud.  There was something wrong with that.  Why would anyone want to date someone their brother's age?

            The Black house was curiously empty.  It always seemed diminished, now that its final owner had passed on, but today Ron was the only one in the house.  The other members of the Order were off doing Order business, his father was at work, his mother had gone with Ginny on a girls' day out, and Hermione was gone somewhere else.  She had come over two weeks after holidays began, but once a week she disappeared and stayed away all day.  She wouldn't tell him what the disappearances were about, either.  It was maddening.

            The only other things in the house were Buckbeak and Kreacher.  Ron glanced at his History of Magic essay and decided to check on Buckbeak instead.  Kreacher spent most of his days hiding out in various cupboards.  Ron was worried about that; but then again, he knew if Harry caught sight of the house elf….  He shivered, not wanting to think about what might happen.

            Just as he rose from his chair, however, the front door opened and closed, and Tonks walked into the kitchen, shaking out her long, blonde hair.

            "Veela today?" Ron asked, managing a small smile.

            Tonks looked at him, her face pinched in her Metamorphmagus look that some might mistake for a scowl, and seconds later her hair changed to chin-length pink.  Her eyes went from blue to violet.  "Yeah," she said, running a hand through her hair.  "I had to do some finagling with the Minister of Finance today.  Figured it couldn't hurt to look my best."

            "What for?"

            "More funding for the Auror training program," she said, raising her wand.  "Accio hand mirror.  He wasn't too pleased."

            Ron snorted.  "I can imagine."

            The mirror zoomed into Tonks's hand and she looked at herself.  "I can't decide if I like it spiky or this length.  But I definitely think pink is my color."

            "I wouldn't know," he replied, shrugging.

            She glanced at him, setting the mirror on the table, then darting down to grab it as it fell off the edge.  "Oops.  Are you alone today?"

            "Yeah.  Just me and my homework."  Ron sighed and sat back down, running a hand through his hair.  "Brilliant."

            "Hermione on a date?" she asked, sitting next to him and looking at the title of his essay.  "Oh, boy.  1660: The Effects of Magic on the Glorious Revolution.  Sounds fun."

            Ron missed the second half of her comment.  "Hermione?  Date?  W—why would she be on a date?"

            Tonks frowned at him.  "I thought she was dating some guy from your school.  Um…I can't remember his name."

            A freezing feeling grabbed Ron's stomach as a heat rose to his brain.  He usually associated these feelings with the name Viktor Krum.  "Oh, really?"

            "Well, that's what she said.  But she—damn."  Tonks giggled.  "We weren't supposed to tell you."

            Now a strange red mist rose in front of his eyes.  "Why the hell wouldn't she want me to know?"

            The witch considered him.  "Um…maybe because of the reaction you're having right now?"

            Ron took several deep breaths.  "Right."  The fury in him dimmed to an anger that was still overwhelming.  Jealousy, too.  Lots of that.  "Still.  Doesn't it seem a bit…"

            "Usual?  Healthy?" Tonks suggested.  "After all, you're all teenagers.  Dating seems perfectly reasonable.  I dated.  I would still date, were it not for the fact that I'm part of a secret organization and the Ministry of Magic.  It makes for a rather demanding schedule."

            "No, not usual…silly?"  Ron desperately searched for a reason, trying to stop the knowing smile spreading on her face.  "I mean, for crying out loud, we're in the middle of a war!"

            "So?  That doesn't seem to stop anyone else."  Tonks was grinning now.  "Perhaps there's another reason why this upsets you, Master Weasley?"

            Ron sighed in defeat.  "Is it that obvious?"

            "No.  It's even more obvious."  Tonks covered her mouth with her hand as her shoulders shook.  When she regained control, she said, "So.  You like Hermione, but Hermione's going out with someone else.  LOVE STINKS!"

"What?" Ron demanded.

"Nothing," Tonks said.  "Dad's a Muggle, so I listen to Muggle music.  And it's a movie.  But anyway, I have to ask, Ron, why you haven't asked her out earlier."

            "There's never been time!" Ron said, suddenly pleased to be able to vent his frustration on someone who cared.  "I considered it all the time last year, but we were so busy, and when we weren't…it just seemed silly.  I mean, what if she said no?"

            This time Tonks couldn't restrain herself and burst into laughter.  "What?" he demanded, now annoyed.  "Isn't it healthy to have a fear of rejection?"

            "First of all, only when the fear isn't paralyzing is it healthy.  Second of all—Hermione say no?"  Tonks fell out of her chair as a new wave of laughter hit her.

            "What?  Are you saying she's desperate?"

            "For you!"

            Ron nearly fell out of his own chair.  "What do you mean by that?  And if she's so crazy for me, why does she keep dating other people?"

            Tonks managed to clamber back onto her own chair.  "Well, I'd say it's because you haven't shown any interest.  I mean—I suppose you've shown some, but since you haven't followed up on it, she probably dismissed it."

            Ron's bubble burst.  "Are you saying she's given up on me?"

            "I don't think she'll ever give up on you, Ron."

            "Ginny gave up on Harry."

            Tonks paused.  "Well…she's given up on him.  That isn't to say she doesn't like him.  And they're friends now.  As they grow older…"  She shrugged.  "But I certainly don't think Hermione's given up on you.  While she probably is tired of waiting and does somewhat like the person she's dating now, she's also thinking that maybe this is going to get your attention.  At the same time she's thinking you're a lost cause and berating herself for being so crazy about you when there's this perfectly likeable young man with her right now, but she's still crazy about you."

            Ron stared.  "That's as confusing as what she said about Cho Chang when Cho wouldn't stop crying."

            This made the older girl laugh again.  "Oh, Ron.  You'll understand one day.  In the meantime, you have an undeterminable amount of time to make yourself date-ready.  I can't help you, but I'm sure someone can."

            "And how do I do that?" Ron asked, turning as she got out of her chair and started for the kitchen.

            "If I were you, I'd start by finding out who your competition is," she tossed over her shoulder.  "Good luck.  Oh, and Ron?"

            "Yeah?"

            "Don't ask her out until she breaks up with the other guy.  It…wouldn't be good."

            "Got it."  He turned back to his History of Magic essay, alternately terrified and overjoyed.  And anxious.  How on earth was he going to become date-ready?  What did date-ready mean?  Did Hermione really like him, or was Tonks having him on?  And who the heck was James II?

***

            Hermione came home a few hours later, accompanied by Ginny and several shopping bags.  As they passed the dining room, Ron caught snatches of their conversation.

            "…you picked out some really cute stuff!"

            "You don't think I go too much?"

            "Nah.  If you're going…"

            He sighed and dipped his quill in his ink, now totally distracted from his essay and only halfway through a sentence.  Damn.

            Upstairs, Hermione dumped her bags on her bed and flopped down next to them, while Ginny sat on the bed.  "I can't believe it!" Ginny squealed.  "I can't believe you're going to the Witch Weekly Charity Ball!"

            "Sh!" Hermione said, sitting up and looking around.  "Ron's home."

            Ginny waved a dismissive hand.  "He doesn't know what that is.  So, why are the Boots going?"

            "His mom writes the recipes for the magazine," Hermione explained for the third time.  She wasn't tired of it, though.  It would be fabulous, and Terry was very sweet.  She'd have lots of fun.

            "It's so sweet!  Ooh, you've got to take pictures!"  Suddenly Ginny turned pensive.  "Of course, after this, it'll be a little hard to break up with him before the end of summer."

            Hermione's stomach gave a guilty wrench.  "Well, maybe I won't," she said.  "It's not like Ron's done anything worthwhile."

            "He gave you perfume.  I think that's possibly the nicest gift he's ever gotten for anyone.  Heaven knows all he ever bought for Mum and me were sugar quills or Chocolate Frogs."

            Another guilty churn.  "Goodness, Ginny, is this guilt-trip day?" she demanded.  "After all, what matters is that Terry asked me out.  And he complimented me about my intelligence and charm work, instead of calling me a bossy-know-it-all and asking to copy off me."

            Ginny giggled.  "This is true.  Terry gets major points on the sweetness scale.  Tell me again how he—"

            "Sh!" Hermione said again, hearing footsteps on the stairs.  A few seconds later, Ron appeared in the doorway, holding his History of Magic textbook and looking uncertain.

            "Hey, Hermione, could you explain something for me?" he asked.

            Ginny put a hand to her heart.  "Ron!  Are you actually doing schoolwork over summer holiday?"

            "Shut up."

            "Sure," Hermione said.  "What do you need explained?"  When he stayed in the doorway, she added in exasperation, "You can come in the room, Ron."

            His ears turned red, a familiar and still adorable expression of embarrassment.  Hermione mentally slapped herself as soon as he sat next to her on the bed, careful to avoid the bags.  Ginny wasn't helping: she kept sending Hermione knowing looks and googly-eyes.  She felt her own cheeks begin to burn as Ron leaned over and pointed to something in the book.

            "Why was it so important at that time to oust James II?  I mean, they'd left him on their throne, but Binns insists that they overthrew him for a reason."  Ron looked up at her when he finished, questions in his eyes.

            Thankfully, Hermione had been studying British history from a very young age and could reel off the answer easily, so her brain was able to take over when she found herself staring into the blue, blue depths of his eyes.  Oh dear.

            Ron repeated the answer back to her, and she nodded.  He grinned kind of sheepishly and looked away, and Hermione looked in the opposite direction, taking a deep breath and ignoring Ginny, who had buried her face in a pillow and whose shoulders were shaking uncontrollably.  "Well, um, thanks."

            "You're welcome," she replied automatically.

            He looked around the room.  "Anything deadly living in here?"
            "Not that I know of," she answered, looking back at him.  But his attention was elsewhere.

            "What's up with you?" he demanded, speaking to Ginny.  Ginny waved him off and shook her head, her face still trying to meld with the pillow.   Rolling his eyes, he got up and went back to the door.  "Thanks again."

            "No problem," she said, catching his gaze.  He gave her a piercing look she couldn't decipher, then grinned sheepishly again and left.  Once the sound of his footsteps had faded, Hermione whirled a furious glare onto Ginny, who rolled over, still shaking with laughter so hard she wasn't making any noise.

            "Could you be any more obvious?" Hermione hissed.

            Ginny started taking deep breaths.  "I'm sorry.  You were just so funny.  The two of you—goodness me.  That was hilarious.  That was beyond hilarious.  That was worse than when Dean asked me out."

            "Speaking of which, are you two still going out?"
            "Well, yeah, but it's not like we see each other, is it?"  Ginny shrugged.  "Merlin, that was funny."

            "Can we stop talking about that and return to the Charity Ball gossip?"

            Ginny squealed again.  "Oh, yes!"

***

            Marginal success.  Maybe Tonks wasn't lying, after all.  Ron grinned and went back to his essay.

A/N II:  I have basis in OotP for Terry asking Hermione out—he called her clever when she put the Protean (sp?  My sister has my copy right now) Charm on the fake Galleons, and was very impressed by her intelligence.  Reason stands they know each other, being yearmates, both in the DA, etc.  But don't worry.  I'm the biggest R/H shipper in existence.