The mechanism of bilayer unification in biological fusion is unclear. We reversibly arrested hemagglutinin (HA)-mediated cell-cell fusion right before fusion pore opening. A low-pH conformation of HA was required to form this intermediate and to ensure fusion beyond it. We present evidence indicating that outer monolayers of the fusing membranes were merged and continuous in this intermediate, but HA restricted lipid mixing. Depending on the surface density of HA and the membrane lipid composition, this restricted hemifusion intermediate either transformed into a fusion pore or expanded into an unrestricted hemifusion, without pores but with unrestricted lipid mixing. Our results suggest that restriction of lipid flux by a ring of activated HA is necessary for successful fusion, during which a lipidic fusion pore develops in a local and transient hemifusion diaphragm.