The nights around the moon are hard to describe.
They do not like adjectives; they are not the most difficult, or the most painful, or the most wonderful or exciting or terrifying, because all those words are married to the condition of being a teenager, and Remus does enough, dealing with those words in their proper context, to think of forcing them onto moon nights as well.
Nevertheless, he tries, always, to pin them down. Perhaps they will be easier to understand if he can describe them, concretely, with feeling and imagery, but they are quicksilver and illusive. That is the worst of it; those are its words, words of light and intangibility. They are moon words themselves, distant and beautiful and cold. He cannot capture them for his own peace of mind, not the way he can capture the words of teenage years, because those words are sometimes frightening, but they happen to everyone. Not like moon words, not like moon nights.
The closest Remus can get is by trying to describe himself, pin himself down. The way, all the day before, he will be trembling unceasingly, minutely, so that Peter does not realize, and if James realizes it is a subliminal thing, so that his friend only whispers what they will do that night, what forest adventures. The way he will carefully eat just too much, not so that the others notice, but meat enough to slake the silent whisperings of bloodlust in the back of his mind, and chocolate enough to calm his shaking for a time. The way he will smile, as he always does, and if they ask, he will say nothing is wrong, because nothing is yet, not until the one moment of changing.
That is the only thing he can pinpoint, tie down, really keep for himself.
Saying what happens just before, or just afterward, is difficult. Remus can tell of sitting silently, back straight, as human a posture as possible, amid torn floorboards. He can tell of the twisting that starts somewhere indefinable, until he wants to scream with it, but he tightens his jaw and swallows it back. He does not show visible resistance, even though there is no one there but himself. He is not trying to prove anything, or to fool anyone; it is only what he does, to stay sane. It would be easy, to simply let the moon nights take him, lie passive on the floor and shake until it is over, but then it would run together, moonlight and blood and silver, and Remus would forget where he ended and the nothing began.
This way, fighting silent, Remus can keep the moment of changing.
And so he sits, choking back howls, until the twisting is too much, and he can feel it externalize, take his body. Remus never watches himself, what happens to him, because perhaps if he did, he might accept it; instead he stares into the moonlight, and thinks what he can, three rolls of parchment for Binns on Monday, I did so poorly on that Potions exam, accio chocolate and I'd never have to go to Honeyduke's again, Peter's girlfriend is very nice, I wonder if Sirius has finished charming that bike of his, mundane human thoughts that might even make him smile, though perhaps his jaws don't work properly any more. Changing, though, it is not a physical thing; if it was, was that, a sort of chronic furriness, no one would bother locking him away and inventing spirits to explain his shrieks to the villagers. No, changing, that terrible intangible twisting, is in Remus's mind, and he must think, must stare into the moonlight as the room tilts and pain sparks through him, until everything is focused inward, on himself, those mundane things forgotten, he is Remus Lupin and he is rational and he must not scream –
And then there is the moment, the one moment Remus always remembers, clear and cold as icy water, this moment when he is utterly himself and he knows only one thing, I can't anymore.
He does scream then, tearing at his throat, but it does not matter because the moment is over and he only wants out, in the dim intangible way of a wolf cursed.
The others always love to recount their adventures the next day, the narrow misses and grand escapades, and sometimes Remus laughs along with them, delighted at the things they have done, and sometimes he is silent, and wishes he had not gotten so close to escaping, because of all those who would land in trouble because of it. Remus loves it, what his friends have done, and those moon nights are perhaps the best in his life, because he does not have his rational thought to hinder him, as he does when James and Sirius think up mad schemes in daylight. Still, there is a distance to it, both the close calls and the adventures, because it happened on a moon night and is hazy.
So hard to keep track of, moon nights.
Mornings after the moon are difficult too, because he is trying to remember what has happened, as Madam Pomfrey leads him back to the castle. And his friends will visit, with chocolate and enthusiasm, to whisper the nights back to him and laugh. James and Peter will leave, then, while Sirius says he'll just stay a minute more, thanks, and then he will sit on a chair by Remus's bed, early morning sun streaming through the window, warming and half-blinding them both, and Sirius will not laugh anymore, or smile. He will ask how it was, really was, not what they did but what went before, and that is when Remus tries to pin down the moon nights. It never works.
Sirius is like the moon nights, sometimes, but the mornings are easier to pin down, because the brush of lips and the slide of hands are in the tangible. And then, then, the moon nights do not trouble them so much.