If ever Harry might have released his wand from shock, it would have been then, but instinct kept him clutching his wand tightly, so that the thread of golden light remained unbroken, even though the thick gray ghost of Cedric Diggory (was it a ghost? it looked so solid) emerged in its entirety from the end of Voldemort’s wand, as though it were squeezing itself out of a very narrow tunnel . . . and this shade of Cedric stood up, and looked up and down the golden thread of light, and spoke.

I know the author is trying to say he would have been dead. but does "then" has a certain depressive meaning to represent those things in these kind of situations?

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    then here refers to a particular time in the past. If Harry ever did it, it would have been at that time. Commented Jul 6, 2014 at 12:02

2 Answers 2


Yes 'then' here refers to that particular time in the past. It is like the usage of then in "now versus then". (For example: If you had to turn the car aside when the deer was in front of us it would have been then. (But you didn't I know that)).

Then when past is also used in situations like: "Valintine's day then (i.e. when we were kids) and now".


The author is not trying to say that Harry would have been dead. That is, the sentence does not mean:

If Harry released his wand from shock, it would have been finished then [he would die at that time].

Instead, it means:

Harry did not release his wand at any time, but if he had, the most likely time would have been then [at that time, because that's when the most shocking thing happened].

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