Loneliness had been a constant in his life. Growing up, loneliness had been the only thing that had never abandoned him. And later, surrounded by people – his best friends, his guardians – he had remained isolated and acutely aware of his seclusion. It was no longer the mellow slide into tears and darkness and cramped cupboards, but the sharp twinges that happened when he could feel happiness just around the corner. It was more than he’d ever been allowed before. He thought he’d always be content to bask in the afterglow of its light.
Then she happened.
Like the slow slide and the sharp sting all at once; someone he’d known for five years and someone he’d only just discovered.
He glanced at the plastic Muggle wristwatch strapped to his arm, its neon numbers glowing dimly in the darkness. At her request, he’d purchased it in the village just before he’d left in search of his fate. He’d spent the money for this very moment when every night - like clockwork - it heralded the witching hour with a sharp beep charmed for his ears alone.
The sickly green colour, so familiar, was forever the cause of his loneliness. He thought it fitting that it was responsible for his moments of comfort as well.
He closed his eyes.
She’d been the one, after all, to steal his constant isolation and replace it with obsessive Quidditch talk and bright eyes, with pranks and breathless whispers and laughter that poured over his soul like thick, smooth chocolate.
Maybe a part of him had been unwilling to relinquish the companionship of his solitude; it had been his only friend before he'd known what the word meant. He’d resisted even this small token of her affection – remember me at midnight – believing it would give them away.
“I boxed up my dolls the summer I turned twelve,” she’d told him, “because it seemed silly to cling to childish symbols I’d never really wanted in the first place.”
Her eyes had been solemn and knowing, unforgiving and relentless.
“Can you wait for me?” As his head rested on her shoulder, minutes before dawn would take him away, he’d already known her answer.
“I locked away my dolls,” she’d whispered, “but I never locked away my heart.”
With his eyes shut, he could picture her clearly: a little child chasing a train; a school girl running towards him; a woman left behind – waiting – as dawn bled, pink and terrifying, across the dark summer sky.
With his eyes shut, when midnight struck as dark as her eyes – when he knew she was thinking of him with her heart and her mind open – he was able to let go of his loneliness, if only for a moment.
One day, he would come back to her a man, and they would seek the kind of companionship that would make the lonely disappear. One day, he’d find a new constant. It was worth waiting for.
A/N: Thanks to Susan and Annika the encouragement and lovely help