"Come on, Hermione," Ron muttered desperately.
Hermione had fought her way across to the stand where Snape stood, and was now racing along the row behind him; she didn't even stop to say sorry as she knocked Professor Quirrell headfirst into the row in front. Reaching Snape, she crouched down, pulled out her wand, and whispered a few, well- chosen words. Bright blue flames shot from her wand onto the hem of Snape's robes.
(Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

It seems that Hermione had knocked into the front of row behind Snape, and then raced along the row until she reached Snape. If this is right, why is there no perfect tense after the semi-colon?

1 Answer 1


This is ordinary narrative, which marches forward in successive past forms. Each past form defines a new, currently operative Reference Time.

The sequence opens with a past form: "Ron muttered".

As the focus moves off of Ron onto Hermione, the sequence is interrupted by

  • a past perfect which brings us up-to-date by telling us how Hermione got to where she is at the time Ron mutters, and

  • a past progressive which tells us what she is doing there at that moment.

Then the sequence resumes: "she didn't stop as she knocked", "she crouched down, pulled ... and whispered ... flames shot."

Think of it as a shooting script:

  1. CLOSEUP on RON. "Come on, Hermione."

    CUT TO

  2. WIDE SHOT: HERMIONE in the stand, racing along the row behind that in which Snape stands.


  3. MEDIUM SHOT (TRACK HERMIONE): She runs. She bowls Quirrell into the first row. She reaches Snape. She crouches and draws her wand.

    CUT TO

  4. CLOSEUP, LOW: HERMIONE points her wand and whispers.

  5. REVERSE, LOW along the wand toward SNAPE: Blue flames shoot from the tip of the wand and set the hem of SNAPE's robe on fire.

All those present tenses are backshifted to past in conventional narrative.

  • Though '3.MEDIUM SHOT' precedes '2.WIDE SHOT' - for she knocked Quirrel in front of the row and then raced - WIDE SHOT is showed first, MEDIUM SHOT is next. Is this what you are saying?
    – Listenever
    Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 12:43
  • 1
    @Listenever Oh, dear, I got too clever ... WS is what in the biz we call an establishing shot, which has something of the same effect as JKR's perfect/progressive interruption; but CU, MS aren't intended as strict analogues of tenses, they're just how you might see the sequence of actions. Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 13:06
  • 1
    @Listenever, rather than “for she knocked Quirrel in front of the row and then raced”, Prof. Quirrell gets knocked down as Hermione races along the row behind him. The passage does not say or mean that he was knocked down before Hermione raced along the row. Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 13:54

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