Maybe this is just me being desperate, but what if I explain in a narration that there was an unsuccessful Rebel attack on the Death Star. That way I can keep the Death Star damaged, and maybe in this attack, the Emperor might trick them into thinking the laser was damaged and not operational, so that this would be their only chance to attack it. Also, that would mean the Emperor wouldn’t there for shits and giggles, he’s there to boost morale while the Death Star is repaired.
Maybe just replace all shots of the completed first DS with shots of the second DS. It wouldn’t make a huge difference story wise.