For millennials of a certain age, the duo were basically the teen dream version of Brangelina, uniting on and off screen as one of the foremost and heavily followed power couples of the early 2000s.
In a note titled “For Aaron” shared on her social media Saturday, Duff mourned the teenager she knew all those years ago.
“I’m deeply sorry that life was so hard for you and that you had to struggle in-front of the whole world,” she wrote on Instagram. “You had a charm that was absolutely effervescent ... boy did my teenage self love you deeply.”
She ended her message by telling Carter to “rest easy” and that she is “sending love” to his family.
Carter was found dead at his Lancaster, California, home on Saturday. He was 34. No cause of death was given for the late singer, who was the younger brother of Backstreet Boys lead singer Nick Carter.
Duff and Aaron Carter started dating when they were both just 13 years old in 2000 with their on-again, off-again romance officially ending around 2003.
Carter famously appeared on Duff’s Disney Channel series “Lizzie McGuire” in a 2001 episode, in which he played himself and performed a Christmas-themed version of his hit single “I Want Candy.” In one of the most heavily memed moments from the now-classic episode, Carter says, “Merry Christmas, Lizzie McGuire” before they share a kiss.
The two were famously part of a love triangle with Lindsay Lohan, who started dating Carter during one his breakups with Duff, sparking a much-publicized feud between the teen queens at the time.
Since then, Carter has repeatedly expressed his regret over how the relationship ended, declaring his love for Duff throughout the years and telling Entertainment Tonight in 2014 that he was “not gonna give up on Hilary, ever.”
“Don’t be that stupid douche that loses the love of your life forever. Like me ” he wrote on Twitter the same year. “I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to better myself to get back to her. I don’t care what ANY of you think.”
Duff brushed off his advances at the time, reiterating that their romance was a thing of the past.
“I keep seeing that, that he keeps doing that,” she told BuzzFeed. “I don’t know how I feel. I mean, that was so long ago, and obviously I’m still married, and I have a baby and we kind of just. … Yeah, don’t know each other … so … yeah.”
Carter went on to start a family of his own with fiancée Melanie Martin, with whom he shared, 11-month-old son Prince.