You got there? You got Hermione's owl?
We must have crossed in midair. No sooner had I reached London than it became clear to me that the place I should be was the one I had just left. I arrived just in time to pull Quirrell off you.
It was you [that cried, "Harry! Harry," when I was losing my consciousness].
I feared I might be too late.
You nearly were, I couldn't have kept him off the Stone much longer.
Not the Stone, boy, you - the effort involved nearly killed you. For one terrible moment there, I was afraid it had. As for the Stone, it has been destroyed.
(Harry Potter)

I guess just "one terrible moment there" can make an adverbial phrase as an absolute phrase, then what's the purpose of for?
Why does the main clause use the past tense ("was afraid")?
What's the meaning of the highlighted sentence?

1 Answer 1


For followed by a length of time defines the duration of the action expressed in the main clause:

For ten years he was a software developer.
For the next two hours I will be working on the Anderson project.

I was afraid is in the narrative past, expressing sequential events in the past:

The effort nearly killed you. [Then] I was afraid.

It had is an ellipsis for it had killed you. It is cast in the perfect form, with have + past participle, to express something which happened before the time referred to but has effects which last into the time referred to. In this case, the time referred to is the past, when the speaker thought Harry was dead, so have takes the past form too:

I think the effort has killed you. ... reference time = time of speaking
I thought the effort had killed him. ... reference time = before the time of speaking

When the speaker arrived, he found Harry unconscious; he thought, for a short but frightening time, that the effort had killed Harry, before he arrived.

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