“You got there?[= London] 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.”
“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.”
“Destroyed?” said Harry blankly. “But your friend — Nicolas Flamel —”
“Oh, you know about Nicolas?” said Dumbledore, sounding quite delighted. “You did do the thing properly, didn’t you? Well, Nicolas and I have had a little chat, and agreed it’s all for the best.”
“But that means he and his wife will die, won’t they?”
(Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

The sentence is confusing me in three points: (1) what does ‘for’ mean? : it seems that without ‘for’, the phrase can denote the reason of the next clause. (2) which is there?: London, where Harry is struggling with Quirrell, or the situation Harry had to undergo on his own. (3) if ‘for one terrible moment there’ is a condition, there didn’t happened the incident worried yet. Then why is there past perfect, had?

1 Answer 1

  1. This is not a subordinate clause but an ordinary adverbial of time: for [time expression] is roughly equivalent to during [time expression].

  2. There is being used of the situation, the time-and-place when Dumbledore arrived and pulled Quirrell off of Harry.

  3. Past perfect is used because Dumbledore is referring to the effort which almost killed Harry [Event Time] before Dumbledore arrived [Reference Time].

So the sentence means "[When I arrived] I was afraid, for a brief but terrible moment, that the effort had [killed you]."

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