Before discussing the topic, I need to state a few facts:
1st, I by no means and under no circumstance support paedophilia and paedophiles.
2nd, I do not sympathise with Humbert Humbert.
and 3rd, I know that Humbert Humbert is not only a paedophile but also a deceitful, narcissistic, ruthless, cold-hearted, scheming and manipulative person.
Having said that, I waver between the 2 terms "paedophilia" and "nympholepsy". My mind grasps the former as "sexual feelings directed towards children" and the latter as linked to the term "nymphet", defined as "an attractive and sexually mature young girl". At the beginning of the book, after presenting himself, Humbert Humbert spends some time writing about his obsession and introducing his concept of nymphets as distinct from other girls. And he uses the term "nympholepsy", which (also) means "wild frenzy caused by desire for an unattainable ideal".
Now this seems problematic, the word seems to be a mixture of euphemism, self-justification and slut-shaming, which on the 1 hand is true. However, I don't see any contradiction. Maybe being born 38 years after Nabokov published the book and added the word to the English dictionary gives me hindsight, especially when the Lolita image has been used again many times in the media, but in my opinion, acknowledging or believing in the existence of the Lolita type of girl, who combines the sensuality, the sexual attractiveness of a woman with the innocent and blooming quality of a child and some sense of carelessness, doesn't mean I think she should be harmed or deserves to be harmed. It's the same as the way I, if having a daughter, would warn her and advise her not to wear revealing clothes, not to walk alone in the dark, not to get herself into dangerous circumstances, but if she chose not to follow my advice and were raped, I would never think she deserved it or was responsible for it. I see these 2 things as separate and not contradictory- that a woman must try to be safe, and that rape is always wrong, molestation is always wrong.
One may say, it's still not convincing. That is understandable, even the author of this entry wavers between the 2 terms. So let's say it's paedophilia.
Is it paedophilia from the beginning to the end?
I'll say not.
The moment Humbert Humbert 1st sees Lolita, or Dolores Haze, he sees her as a nymphet like any other nymphet he has met. When they live in the same house and talk more frequently, and later, when Charlotte no longer blocks the way and they live together and travel from 1 place to another, he still sees her as a nymphet, who is only more familiar, more acquainted with him, or one may say, who is in his possession, under his tyranny. A change takes place in some last chapters of the novel, when he meets her a few years later, when she has passed the age of nymphets, older, pregnant, fatigued, and worn out by poverty and suffering. His feeling at that point, I think, is more than the bitterness at losing something he has once possessed, and more than jealousy and the anger of losing to Quilty, and must be a mixture of them, and some love. It's because of love that he feels deep sadness in the end, realising that he has lost her forever. It's because of love that although she refuses him, he gives her a large sum of money, more than she has asked, without anything in return. It's because of love that he starts to care about her as an individual, no longer an ideal image.
In short, "Lolita" is mostly about obsession and tyranny, but... love? Yes there is.