She didn’t know just how she got through the first year of her Queenship still refusing to believe in evil. It would have been too easy to think of Nute Gunray and the Trade Federation as evil, for instance. But then, she couldn’t afford to have any kind of clouds in her view of them. She had to study them objectively if she wanted to figure out how to defeat them.
No, what should have made her believe in the existence of evil was not the Neimoidians, but the Sith Lord who killed Qui-Gon Jinn, whom she faced for three seconds along with the rest of their attack party before the Jedi sent them away from what they could not possibly fight. Perhaps the most terrifying three seconds of her life, at least before that fateful night when she woke from fitful sleep, if one could even call her state that night sleep, and saw the Jedi Temple burning, and it only got worse from there.
She could never put into words just what she sensed during those three seconds, but it was emanating from the dark figure on the other side of the doors and seemed to destroy everything good, shroud the hanger in darkness, except possibly the Jedi, and the fear it raised in her threatened to overwhelm her. She didn’t know how she kept it down, kept her calm without even a tremble. But it was only thirteen years later, when she sensed it again, emanating from first her husband, and then his final Master, that she had been willing to call it evil.
His final Master. A man she too had looked up to, had helped get into power-remembering that made her want to smash something. Emperor Palpatine.
Just living in the galaxy he had created made her wish she had died after Mustafar. She had been dying, she knew, when she had woken on her ship, with Obi-Wan piloting, and had known that Anakin Skywalker was dead. And though she could not understand why, she knew that it was his death which allowed her to live, despite whatever he had done to her with his hands that had closed up her throat, taking away what little ability to breath she still had possessed at that point.
The other service Anakin’s death had done for her was leave no doubt that she would never blame him, or think ill of him. That strange man who had slaughtered the young Jedi and who had tried to kill her on Mustafar was not her husband, but what Palpatine had transformed him into. His acts were not Anakin Skywalker’s, but the Emperor’s.
The full extent of Palpatine’s betrayal had not hit Padmé until she was en route to Mustafar. It was lying about in the ship, trying in vain to sleep, her two children inside her crying out to the Force and her hearing what they did, that the rage had first come which felt like her heart shredding everything around it in its mad stampede to strike, to hurt, to destroy. She had heard of the effects of such fury from Anakin, had held him and comforted him after his confession of what his mother’s death had done to him, and what he had then done, but back then she had been literally unable to comprehend what had come over him. It was only when she paced the ship like a rabid wildcat, knowing if Palpatine should suddenly appear opposite her she would kill him with her bare hands, that she knew exactly what he had felt.
And that was when she was only attributing to him the destruction of the Republic which he had sworn his dedication to, which she had lived her dedication to.
She supposed Jedi had to be taught to listen to the Force because they were born sensing it, and thus instinctively learned to ignore it unless trained to do otherwise. When a new sense came to her, it didn’t take long for her to guess what it was. And so being nearly consumed with new hatred, all the more potent because she had never felt that emotion in her life, recalling everything Anakin had ever happened to say to her about what he had been taught, she first knew and understood the Dark Side.
And so she knew it surrounded Anakin on Mustafar, when she forced herself to see it around him. And when she had given birth, recovered, and returned to Coruscant and faced the man who had killed her husband, she had sensed it again.
Obi-Wan told her later she couldn’t have, that by then her midi-chlorian count should have dropped back to her pre-pregnancy level, and she already knew that, because her sense of the Force had gone. But all the same, she could never be around the Emperor without feeling his darkness. She wondered how it had gone unnoticed by the Jedi. She asked Obi-Wan, and he confessed to always having felt an inexplicable dislike for Palpatine, and a stronger discomfort in the final months of the war. He explained to her about shielding abilities, and theorized that Palpatine had grown too strong with the Dark Side to hide it as well, and with the Jedi now virtually wiped out was make much less of an effort.
He lived in hiding with Luke and Leia, and somehow Padmé figured out a way to see them at least every few months. One of Bail Organa’s craftier assistants had arranged for a fake medical report to “accidentally” fall into Palpatine’s hands recording Padmé as having miscarried, and they could only hope he’d fallen for it. Padmé carefully suppressed her protective feelings for her two children around the Emperor, the same way she suppressed all thoughts of rebellion, allowing instead her hatred for him for what he had done to the Republic and Anakin to radiate out from her. She had the terrible feeling it amused him, and though she knew this was good, because it kept him from suspecting she was still working against him, that believe fed her hate.
Obi-Wan chided her for harboring such feelings. Though he had no problem calling the man evil, he even admitted to having done so to Anakin during their duel on Mustafar.
Of course it was easy to know why he called Emperor Palpatine evil. It was because he was a Sith Lord, and they were supposed to be evil. It amazed her how he, the Negotiator, who truly did understand that the matter of good and evil was far more complex, could make such an quick, inflexible judgement.
Padmé knew from Anakin’s example that even a Jedi, and a good one who had not yet fallen, was still far from being nothing but good. And on the other side, she was dubious about the conclusion that his turning had left Count Dooku with no good in him whatsoever, and she knew, without being able to question it or explain how, that when her husband had died on Mustafar, there had still been some good left in him. Exactly how the mind of the Sith worked she still did not comprehend, despite Obi-Wan’s explanations and her own taste of the Dark Side of the Force, but she had not called a Sith pure evil at fourteen just because he was a Sith, and she would not ever.
She knew the battle against the Sith could not be hers to fight, was beyond her, but it was not some mysterious Darth Sidious, as he apparently named himself, that she hated. It was Emperor Palpatine who had destroyed almost everything she held dear, everything she had worked for, and threatened the two most precious things left to her in the galaxy. It was him whom she thought of as evil.