Here’s a happier thought: in another world, things are different.
Darth Vader takes one look at this feral fierce daughter of queens and politicians, this girl lying silver-tongued and spiteful to his face and thinks oh. And a heartbeat later he thinks Padme because this child looks so much like her, down to the imperious jut of her chin. And she looks like a boy he knew once, a boy called Anakin Skywalker, who was reckless and absurd and so strong with the Force that the universe buckled around him.
He says, “You are adopted, aren’t you,” and Leia’s eyebrows skyrocket.
“What relevance does that have,” she manages, “Lord Vader,” and Lord Vader would smile if he could. Instead he reaches down to touch her beautiful face; she flinches away, shows her teeth, and he feels his heart full up to bursting point.
He says, “None at all.”
Alderaan does not burn. Tarkin does though. He falls in two neat, sizzling halves.
“Um,” says Leia. Vader’s lightsabre burns red in her eyes.
“I’m no friend of the Emperor,” says Vader, says Anakin. And, “I knew your mother.” And then, because he’s Anakin Skywalker and planning has never been one of his strong suits, he offers her his hand.
“Come with me.”
“Will Alderaan be safe? My parents?”
My parents. Not by blood, but by choice, and that matters more.
“I will protect them,” says Anakin.