Harry doesn't tell Louis or Zayn that she's taking a cooking class. The thing is, they love when Harry makes them dinner or brings brownies to school for them, but then they lecture her about how she's not being a good feminist because she cooks too much. Harry knows they're full of shit, that's not what feminism means, it isn't just girls doing boy things. But Zayn and Louis seem to have got their ideas of feminism from anti-Barbie campaigns and no matter how many times Harry says it's not like her parents have forced her to get married at 16 and start having babies, they don't listen.
It's pointless arguing with Louis and Zayn, anyway. Louis gets really loud and obnoxious and she doesn't listen to anything anyone says when she's scared she might be wrong, and Zayn just looks sad. Sad is tragic on Zayn; she's got the biggest, saddest eyes. So Harry just brings them snacks and tells them her mum made them, and then signs herself up for a cooking class anyway.
The cooking class is on Saturday morning, which is a wretched time to get up and have a class, but it means Louis and Zayn definitely won't notice Harry's missing. Harry just drinks a little less than usual and so she's able to get up early and bike over to the class. It turns out that most of the class is mums who want to learn to cook better for their husbands and Harry reminds herself that there isn't anything wrong with that. She's a little bit embarrassed to be the youngest person there, and the only one who isn't wearing a cardigan, and then two boys walk in looking even more embarrassed than Harry is.
One of them is tall and brown-haired and looks absolutely unsure why he's there. The other one's shorter and blond and after a second he squares his shoulders and says, "Cooking class, brilliant, can't wait," with an Irish accent. He walks in with a certain amount of swagger.
Harry immediately moves so she's standing at the hob nearest them. She smiles and they smile back; they must be about her age, which is a relief, and they're cute, which doesn't hurt. Harry's good at making friends and she tilts her head and smiles and shamelessly eavesdrops on them whispering to each other. The blond Irish one, Niall apparently, is super excited to be there, and the taller one, Liam, seems distinctly nervous.
Harry sits on the work surface between stovetops and swings her legs back and forth. "Do you like to cook?" she asks, which is kind of a dumb question, since they're at a cooking class and all.
Niall lights up. "I love food," he says. "Gonna learn to make my own, got a girl to impress." Harry approves of that; there's something really romantic about a boy who learns to cook to woo a girl.
Liam pulls a face. "Not really," he says, and Niall kicks him.
Harry narrows her eyes and gives him a stern look. "Why?" she asks flatly, daring him to say some bullshit about cooking being for girls. She's feeling a little oversensitive, given the make-up of the class and the fact that Louis and Zayn are going to harass her about it forever.
"I'm really rubbish at it," says Liam. "My dad won't even let me in the kitchen when he's cooking."
"You're probably rubbish at it because you don't try," says Harry, tossing her head. Liam's eyes flicker over her mouth, down to her breasts, back up to her face. He's trying, at least, not just to stare at her, which is better than a lot of boys do. She looks him over for a second and decides yeah, he's fit, and his t-shirt is really tight in a way that looks hot without looking like he's trying.
"I have tried," Liam protests.
"You've never met anyone who tries as hard as Liam," says Niall, rolling his eyes.
Harry snorts. "How can you be rubbish at something if you're trying hard?" she asks. Liam shrugs like an apology. Harry's a little surprised he hasn't told her to fuck off, honestly, but maybe it's because she's wearing a top that shows off her boobs. Boys find that kind of thing distracting.
The teacher is a nice older lady in a twinset who most of the mums in the room know by name. She introduces herself as Mrs. Smythe and she is beyond thrilled to have two teenage boys in her class. Liam shakes her hand in and tells her how pleased they are to be there as if he's a grown up at a business meeting or something. It's ridiculous. Then Mrs. Smythe looks at Harry and says, "Isn't this nice? Girls these days aren't interested in being young ladies anymore. It's lovely to have you here, er—"
"Harry," says Harry quickly, before she gets any ideas about calling her Harriet or something. "I just really like cooking," she adds. Maybe this was a mistake and Zayn and Louis were right; everyone in the room is going to think she wants to be married and making someone pies.
But then, Harry has never cared much what people think of her, and she's not going to start now. Mrs. Smythe announces that the first and most important thing in cooking is knife technique and she's going to show everyone the proper way to slice an onion so that all the pieces end up the same size and neatly cut. Harry already knows that, but she pays very strict attention so it's clear that she's there to learn. And anyway it's interesting, learning words like mise en place and how to curl her fingers under so she won't cut herself. Her first onion looks a bit raggedy but her second one is nearly perfect. Harry's eyes aren't even watering.
"Fuck," says Niall clearly behind her. "What the shit, hold still you fucking fuck." Mrs. Smythe looks positively scandalized. Niall is chasing his onion all over the cutting board with a lot more enthusiasm than technique, and Mrs. Smythe has to come over and show him how to hold it with one hand and gently cut with the other.
That's nothing to the trouble Liam's having, though. He looks sort of grimly determined, and he's got his hands in the wrong places although it's clear he's concentrating, lips pressed together and brow slightly furrowed. He's genuinely absolute rubbish at it; his onion looks like it's been through a wood chipper and Harry's not especially surprised when he cuts himself. He doesn't swear, though. He just grimaces and hisses in a breath and then growls a little bit while he sucks on his finger.
"You should wash that off," Harry advises him.
"Thanks," says Liam, and she can't tell if that's sarcastic or not.
"Really well done, Harry, you're a natural," says Mrs. Smythe, and Harry glows a little. "Oh dear, Liam, that's… Well, you're trying, and practice makes perfect!" says Mrs. Smythe cheerfully.
"There aren't enough onions in England," says Niall loudly, and Liam throws a badly-chopped bit of onion at him. His aim is pretty good, even if his cutting is shit.
They are making a nice dinner with roasted vegetables and chicken and Mrs. Smythe shows them some other techniques like julienning and how to make a roux for the sauce. Harry is really, really good at it, which isn't a surprise. Harry is good at nearly everything she tries. Mrs. Smythe is nice, but at one point she tries to take the whisk out of Harry's hand to show her a better technique and Harry nearly growls at her. Harry isn't fantastic at sharing.
Niall can't remember anything, so Harry keeps looking over his shoulder to remind him. "Simmering, Niall, you'll burn the milk," she says, and Niall swears and throws his hands up.
"How'd you get so clever at this, then?" Niall demands. "Are you a ringer? Already took this class?"
"I just like to eat food that isn't burnt," says Harry. Niall makes a growly face at her and she giggles.
Liam is still very, very determinedly putting slightly the wrong things into pots, and trying to chop other things really badly and it just… It looks and smells like a giant mess. "What are you doing to that chicken?" Harry asks. "What did it ever do to deserve that?"
"I'm… I mean, I'm cutting it," says Liam, looking a little lost.
"It looks like a victim from a Saw movie," says Harry. "And you're going to slice all your fingers off, honestly." She turns the heat down on her sauce, because it's basically done anyway, and grabs Liam's hand.
"You shouldn't grab people holding knives," he says, but she ignores him and tilts his hand properly, so he's not butchering the poor chicken breast.
"Like this," says Harry. "And you have to bend your fingers on the other hand if you want to keep them." She puts both her hands on his, bending his fingers the right way and putting his hands where they really ought to be anyway. He's got calluses on his fingers; he probably plays an instrument. She likes his fingers; his hands are bigger than hers, and they aren't clumsy, he's just got no idea what he's doing.
"I think you're more distraction than help," Niall cackles. Harry looks up at Liam, who is looking very very hard at his chicken and nowhere else. His cheeks are pink, though. Oh, Harry realizes, he can see down her top from where she's standing. She doesn't exactly mind, though.
Harry lets go of his hands and bumps Liam with her hip playfully. "Am I distracting you?" she asks, looking up at him through her lashes. Harry is tall for a girl, but he's taller than she is.
"No," says Liam firmly, still pink. "I think I can – I mean, I've got it myself, I – Ow!" He manages to slip and cut himself again and pulls an absolutely hilarious frustrated face.
"Wash it off," Harry orders. "I'm pretty sure you can die from getting raw chicken in a cut." And then, because she's slightly worried Liam will actually slice his own hand off if she keeps distracting him, she goes back over to her own cooking space to check on her sauce.
"Ha!" says Niall, dropping the last herbs into his pot. "I'm done! That's going to be right delicious when it's done."
Liam leans over Niall's pot and wrinkles up his nose. He's wrapped a bit of paper towel around his finger to stop it bleeding. "It smells burnt," he says. "How did you manage that? I haven't even managed that, and I'm terrible at this."
"It's not, it's going to be great," says Niall stubbornly.
Mrs. Smythe comes by and compliments Harry on how well she's put everything together and how evenly she's roasting her chicken. She looks at Niall's pot and sighs a little. "I see we've scalded the milk," she says.
"I'll eat it anyway!" says Niall, hands on his hips.
"He really will," Liam whispers to Harry, who bites her lip and giggles at him.
"And this is – Oh, well, I see you're trying," says Mrs. Smythe to Liam.
"I am," he says. "It's just… It's all a bit rubbish."
Mrs. Smythe pastes on a smile. "Well, at least it'll be edible when it's done, even if it's a bit terrible to look at. Maybe it'll be tasty!" She sniffs at his pot and then shakes her head a little. "Oh my, that's quite a lot of pepper," she says, and starts to sneeze.
Liam apologizes, "I slipped while I was measuring it in."
"Oh dear," says Mrs. Smythe. Liam is trying to look cheerful about the whole thing but Harry can see his smile slipping a little bit. He looks really tragic when he's sad. Harry wishes she could rescue his dishes for him. "Maybe this just isn't for you," says Mrs. Smythe. "Maybe this is more of a girl thing."
"Hey!" Harry objects quickly. "This isn't a girl thing! Cooking is something that anyone can do!" She sounds a bit crazy and Mrs. Smythe looks taken aback.
"Anyone except me," Liam says with a little smile at Harry. "And actually my dad does nearly all the cooking in our family. My mum burns everything."
"Well, you haven't inherited the cooking gene from him, then, I'm afraid," says Mrs. Smythe, and hurries off to help one of the other older ladies who, presumably, won't shout at her.
"Does your dad really do the cooking at your house?" Harry asks.
Liam nods. "He's just got a wok, he's mad for making Chinese now. And I can't even cut an onion."
"You're a disappointment as a cook and as a son," says Niall helpfully.
Harry doesn't think before she says, "I guess you'll just have to find a girl who knows how to cook, then." It comes out much flirtier than she meant it to, but Liam goes a bit red and Niall laughs admiringly, and Harry… Well, she's the sort of girl who likes to cook and the sort of girl who isn't ashamed to flirt and be a bit forward. She can be both. She'll have to try and explain that to Louis and Zayn again.
Liam looks at Harry uncertainly and she smiles back, because she's got a great smile, and he's cute in a hopeless sort of way. He isn't going to talk rubbish about her cooking, at least, and she wants to know what instrument he plays and how he knows Niall and if he's going to blush every single time she teases him.
"Right," says Mrs. Smythe. "We're taking a little break so finish up what you're preparing and when we come back we'll make dessert. Everyone likes dessert. It's very difficult to do badly." She says this last bit to Liam.
Somehow Niall has already stuffed half of what he's cooked into his mouth and headed for the door. "Where's he going?" Harry asks.
"He's got a girl to text," says Liam. "And he wants to do it where I can't make fun of him. I will when he gets back, though. Ow, shoot!" He drops a pan, sloshing his sauce everywhere and shaking his hand.
"Did you burn yourself?" Harry asks incredulously. "First you cut yourself, then you burn yourself. I don't think you're meant to be in the kitchen."
"Niall wanted someone to come with him," says Liam. He puts his fingers in his mouth and sucks absently on one of them. Harry doesn't think he's deliberately doing anything dirty; he doesn't seem the type.
They're basically alone in the kitchen; most of the mums have slipped out to smoke or chat. Harry turns Liam's burners off because he'll just burn himself again, he's a disaster. "That's not going to help, you need to put it under cold water," she says, and tugs his hand down to the sink. Maybe she holds on to his hand when she puts it under the water, and maybe she's slipped her fingers between his to turn his hand the right way up so he's getting cold water right on the burn.
"Oh," says Liam faintly.
"Isn't that better?" Harry asks. She's standing close enough to feel how warm he is against her side.
"It's, uh… Yeah," says Liam. "Thank you."
Harry is feeling particularly cheeky. There's a little thrill going through her stomach. "Shall I kiss it better?" she asks, looking up at him through her lashes.
He's gone red again. He's cute anyway. "Are you teasing?" Liam asks, voice a little deeper than it was a moment ago. Harry's fingers are getting cold under the water. "I don't mind, but I— After all this I'd really hate to be disappointed."
"I'd hate to be disappointing," says Harry. She's got her hand wrapped around his so she pulls them both up to her mouth and kisses his finger gently. She's looking at him the whole time, though. He takes a funny hitching breath and his fingers tighten between hers. Harry kisses one of his knuckles, and then another, and then starts to drag her tongue along the dip between his fingers and suddenly Liam's got her pushed back against the work surface and he's kissing her.
Harry squeaks and then it turns into a moan, because Liam might blush but he knows what he's doing with his mouth. He is wickedly, distractingly good at kissing and Harry can't breathe for trying to keep up with him. He's got his leg between hers and Harry's really very sorry she didn't wear a skirt this morning, because all she wants is to rock her hips forward against his and feel some skin. He's awfully solid leaning against her, his stomach is all muscles, and Harry slips her hands underneath his shirt and lets her fingers start to roam. He lets go of her hand for a second, but it's just long enough to grab her hips and pick her up so she's sitting on the counter and as tall as he is. Harry hums appreciatively into his mouth. One of her arms is trapped between them but she puts her other arm around his neck so she can pull him closer between her legs. She hitches one leg over his hips and he groans. It's a rough, desperate noise. Harry loves it.
"I never usually—" Liam starts to say. His mouth is red and Harry likes the way he tastes, a little too spicy from all the ridiculous ways he's been ruining what he's cooking. She puts her hands in his hair and tugs him back down so she can kiss him again. Harry's feeling pleasantly tingly between her legs, and she wonders if she could get Liam to use those big fingers and slide them down into her jeans and get her off before Niall and the class come back. Probably not; she imagines Mrs. Smythe wouldn't take kindly to walking in on that.
"Unsanitary," Liam says finally, pulling back far enough that Harry can't just immediately drag him back down. She's still got her leg wrapped around his waist though.
"Are you calling me a dirty girl?" Harry asks breathlessly. Hopefully, honestly.
Liam looks horrified for just a second and then realizes she's kidding and laughs. He's much too sweet for Harry; she'll ruin him with teasing. He might not mind being ruined, though, she thinks, and smiles encouragingly at him anyway.
"I just think…. Maybe we should try doing this somewhere else, some time?" Liam says. Harry's just had her tongue in his mouth and she's still got one hand creeping up underneath his shirt, but he sounds just a little hesitant.
Harry laughs. "Yes," she says. "That's a very good idea. Did something give me away? Was I too obvious?" She tilts her head and bats her lashes.
"Exactly obvious enough," Liam says.
"Good," says Harry. "You'd better find it cute, or else." She grabs his collar and pulls him down so she can kiss him again. She scrapes her teeth over his lower lip and bites until he winces. "And don't tell me cooking is for girls," she adds, not that it seems likely that he will.
"Aren't you using cooking to get a man?" asks Niall cheerfully, and loudly, behind Liam. Liam startles and would jerk away but Harry's got her hands firmly in his shirt.
"Causality isn't correlation," says Harry.
"What?" says Niall. "Nice one, Liam. You pulled a smart girl!"
Mrs. Smythe and the other ladies come back in and Harry gets quite a lot of dubious looks. She smoothes Liam's hair where she's ruffled it and straightens out his shirt with a couple of gratuitous pats on his shoulders and chest. It's like he's made of rock. He could probably pick her up with one hand. Actually he puts his hands on her waist and gives her a little assist to the floor, which Harry could do herself but she doesn't mind having his rather large hands on her waist again. She grins at him.
"Dinner?" Liam says quietly, leaning forward. "I'm not going to offer to cook."
Harry bursts out laughing, throwing her head back. Liam looks rather pleased with himself. "Oh god, no," she says, "Don't. I'll cook for you, how about that?" She has a rather vivid image of offering him something to eat with her fingers and having him suck on her fingers afterwards.
"Yeah," he says. "Yeah, definitely."
Frankly, Harry thinks, Louis and Zayn don't know what they're missing.